Saturday, August 27, 2016

A Week Briefly (In Which We Play with Helium Balloons)

On our way to church Nature Angel said, "My friends all went back to school, and the all say they hate school."

(These are 8- and 9-year-olds.)

I said, "Oh!  How sad!  I'm glad that you love school!"

"I do?" Nature Angel asked.

"Well, you spent all weekend working on your book, and when I told you to put it away to do something else you were disappointed," I answered.  "That was school."

"It was?"

"Yes.  School is writing, reading, drawing, thinking, building, learning--all kinds of stuff that you do every day without even being told to do it."

"Oh . . . I love writing and drawing and reading . . . and I can't wait to go home and write some more . . . yeah, I do love school," she said musingly.

I let the conversation rest there, but when we got home that Sunday afternoon, Nature Angel spent all of her free time drawing illustrations for her story.  I'm going to help her make it into a "real" book.

On Saturday afternoon, Belle helped Little Princess sew a bag like Nature Angel's (but I never got a picture of it even though I tried 4 times).

Our babies are getting two baths a day of late, as they are playing in the mud every chance they get!
Monday morning brought with it the start of seminary.  Two girls this year--Rose Red and Pixie--were up and dressed and out the door before 5:30 am.

Our morning routine continued to work well, and it wasn't long before we'd finished morning meeting, seen Rose Red off to her Spanish class at the local community college and started math lessons all around.

Ladybug is having a hard time with ordinal numbers, so I took over her lessons, dumping the textbook exercises in favor of sorting rocks into tin cans outside.  We just worked on first, second, and third.  It was quite the challenge for her, so we'll just go very slowly and let it all be a game.

The little boys all wanted turns to do Ladybug's math, but I didn't let them. :)  It was all intentional to build up Ladybug's sense of privilege and to make the boys hungry for math, too.  They watched every move we made, and I'll bet that by later this week they'll understand ordinal numbers through and through.

The littles played outside all morning while I organized and printed materials for us to memorize The Living Christ.

After lunch the littles enjoyed creative and construction play during quiet hour.

The older girls and I listened to Ether 1-9 for day 28 of our 30 day Book of Mormon challenge.

Rose Red kept herself awake and focused by playing with toys as we listened. :)
I took the littles to our favorite nature park where we spent a happy 2 hours.  We observed 3 different types of spider webs, collected cicada wings (the owners of the wings were already dead), and walked as far as our babies could stand to walk.

They found and watched an inchworm crawling over the blocks in the sand pit.

A butterfly hitched a ride on Nature Angel's shoulder blade.
When I got home, I found that Rose Red had completed all of her Spanish homework, and the other 3 teens had spent a happy afternoon doing the practical math involved in calculating the cost of thrift store clothing marked at 50% and 75% off while they spent birthday and/or babysitting money on new (to them) clothes.

Tuesday was much the same as Monday except Rose Red didn't have her Spanish class, and I went shopping for birthday supplies in the afternoon instead of taking the kids out for nature studies.

On Wednesday the older girls and I finished The Book of Mormon!

When will Belle finish the teddy bear she's been knitting now that we're not sitting for an hour or more listening to the scriptures?

I miss it already.

We study it daily in our morning meeting, and I study it daily for my personal devotional time, but I'll miss it anyway.  It's been a good month.

However, the end of this month-long focus is the beginning of our school year.  I set it up that way on purpose, so it's time to get serious about school.

No math for Ladybug as Wednesday is now therapy day, and she was gone with brother for the latter half of the morning and into the afternoon.

But we did still have breakfast at the park!

Pixie was in charge of a baby shower for one of the youth leaders at church, so she was busy all afternoon with last minute details, and she came grocery shopping with me in the afternoon.  She'd sewed a darling flag bunting out of various shades of blue and white from our fabric scrap boxes, purchased blue balloons, and made an "It's a Boy!" banner from construction paper out of our craft cupboard.  She'd been given a $10 budget to work with, so after the balloons, she had $8.23 left.  She borrowed tablecloths and arranged for the other girls and some of the leaders to contribute treats, ice, and a punch bowl.  She organized shower games and delegated any printing (bingo sheets, etc.) to one of the girls.  She purchased candy bars as game prizes, chocolate to melt in our chocolate fountain, toothpicks to use as dipping skewers, and a lemon to dress up the ice water in the punch bowl.  She and her sisters left for youth night early in order to set up, and by the time the guest of honor arrived, the room was decorated and the treats were ready.

Cutting out the flag pieces
The baby shower was a success.  How fortunate that the tornado sirens didn't go off until they were all cleaning up, so they got to have their party first and then be trapped in the church gym for 45 minutes while they waited out the duration of the storm.

Everyone played basketball and had a good time.

No one was hurt, and I was barely aware that there was any more danger than a rainstorm.

Thursday was dominated by behavior issues.  It was a yucky day.

We started our dance practices up again, and though all of the children cheered, Ladybug, Brother, and Little Brother were terrors.  I think that going back to our rehearsal site and returning to our dance day home routines triggered old memories of old behaviors and they simply couldn't resist them.

Part of me wants to purge it all out with a blow-by-blow description, but another part of me wants to let it rest.

I'm going to try to let it rest.

But trust me; it was BAD.

Friday was better.  We got relatively peacefully through our morning routine and math.  In the afternoon I ran some errands that included purchasing 15 helium balloons to do our first activity of the school year from A Year of Playing Skillfully.

It was a flop.

It would have taken over twice as many balloons as we had to make the basket float, and even more to lift a toy.  In the end we got one small stuffed gorilla to float, and then we flew kites until we were too hot and sticky to run around the field any more.

Really, really tired
Little Princess's math book arrived.

She loves it. 

Today is Saturday.  We have too much on the calendar to actually do today, so we're going to have to have a breakfast council and decide what's most important.

We'll see what gets chosen!

(Linking here)

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A Week, Briefly (In Which we Work on Our Morning Routine and Start Math)

Monday morning we (mostly--I can never count Rose Red in these things) started our school-year morning routine.  We're starting half an hour later than we will be starting in a couple more weeks, and I still have a few habits to get better at, but I'm still enjoying morning running, and I am just not ready to give it up.

Besides, it's still too hot for afternoon exercise.

(It's starting to be too dark to be out at 6 am--I'll be shifting to afternoon running once the temperature drops.)

Lola loves combing long, smooth hair.  And Belle is so patient with her.
I still get up between 5 and 5:30 am and start my day with scripture study, journaling, and prayer.  Then I get on my running gear and hit the pavement with one or two teen daughters while another teen daughter gets the privilege of mindless internet time in return for babysitting the babies.  If I get home fast enough I can get a shower before throwing on my clothes.

Everyone else is to be up by 7:00 am.  We spend the next half hour getting everyone through their personal grooming routines and (hopefully) tidying their rooms.  If we're efficient, the littles go outside to play.

I start breakfast at 7:30, and everyone but Rose Red and Pixie (because they'll be gone to seminary) has a pre-breakfast set of chores to do.  I've slotted an entire half hour, but none of them take that long, so there's more free time for kids or time for me to put out fires without getting stressed.

We're doing our Morning Meeting at breakfast time now.  When the kids' mouths are full and their hands are busy, Morning Meeting just goes more smoothly.

This year our Morning Meeting has been shortened because we'll be having a second family study time later in the morning.  It is now focused on our family devotional time:

A Bible story from Egermeier's Bible
Primary Song
Memorizing primary scripture of the month
Memorizing a New Testament scripture
Reading/discussion in the Book of Mormon
Poetry memorization (this will move to the later family study time soon)

After breakfast we break for another brief set of chores, but again I've slotted an entire half hour, and this gives me a chance to change the babies, load the dishwasher, and handle the inevitable disciplinary issues that have come up by this time of the day.

The littles are sent outside to play while the teens and I settle in for our daily hour of listening to the Book of Mormon.  While we listen we knit (me, Pixie, Belle) or color (Super Star) or do nails (Rose Red) or take care of the babies (me!).  We only have 5 days of reading left to finish our 30 day challenge, so we're close!  I'll miss it when we're done.

We began working on this much of the schedule on Monday of this week.

One afternoon Nature Angel brought some cut fabric to me and asked me to help her sew a purse.  Instead Belle jumped to her aid.  Hooray for Belle!

The finished bag and a happy Nature Angel.
 After our morning routine and running a bunch of errands on Monday, a visit from Sir Walter Scott's sister and her family joyfully filled the rest of the day.  They were passing through on their way to take their daughter off to her first year of college.

Tuesday held Rose Red's first battery of learning assessment tests.  She said they were grueling.

We held to our Wednesday tradition of Breakfast at the Park, then we added Math to our daily routine!

Rose Red is working in Principles of Mathematics.  It is listed as 7th grade math, but it is a solid overview of good mathematics skills and so far feels like a good fit for my math-challenged girl.

Pixie is in Saxon Algebra 1.

Super Star is in Saxon 7/6.

Belle is in Saxon 8/7.

Nature Angel started Saxon 5/4.

Little Princess doesn't have a math curriculum because I don't usually do formal math this early.  However, because of Mister Man's and Ladybug's unique educational circumstances, they ARE doing formal math, and now Little Princess feels left out.


I'm considering this math book or this one.  I'm not sure which one, but I'm leaning toward the first.

Mister Man and Ladybug picked up where they left off in the spring in their Horizons K math books.  Belle is still their math tutor.

Mister Man built this during one quiet hour session.

And he was very proud of this construction during another quiet hour.
 Wednesday afternoon was full with haircuts for Sir Walter Scott and all of the boys.  They are all dapper right now!  After that, Nature Angel and I spent several hours positioning stumps along the edge of our sand-pit-to-be; Sir Walter Scott worked on our septic system; Rose Red went to work (her last night at her current job because she's found a new one); and the rest of the kids made mud pies, climbed trees, and watched bugs.

Lola likes mud . . . daily baths take place outside in the wading pool.  We keep a bar of soap in the cubby of our hose keeper.
 Pixie and Belle made dinner for us, and we picnicked outside.

Last week Nature Angel and Little Princess were super interested in doing their language arts curriculum.  This week they didn't ask at all.  Instead Nature Angel spontaneously wrote an 8 page story called Stay With Your Own Fairy Tale.  It is about how Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and Rapunzel grow disgruntled with their lives, switch places, then discover that their own problems and lives aren't so bad after all.  It is darling.

After hand writing it out, she spent all day Friday typing it up.
 Little Princess' library holds of the Billy and Blaze series came through on Tuesday, so she spent lots of happy hours reading independently.  On Friday she got bored, so she did some work out of her language arts curriculum, including an All About Me book.

(Mister Man has already read a few of the Billy and Blaze books, too.)

Baymax is starting to like books.
 Pixie cooked and baked awesome meals and treats all week long.  She also took scads of photos.  We've begun to look up photography contests.

Pixie, busy studying photography--either editing photos or watching a lesson on or looking up a contest to enter.
Pixie hasn't edited all of her photos, so I'm not posting them here, but this one she took of Lola cracks me up--so bored of the photo shoot!
Thursday was busy with our morning routine, math, and then disciplinary issues with Ladybug.  Once we finally got her settled and able to play without damaging people or property, Rose Red and I had a mentoring meeting.  She's finally open to project-based learning, and she's got some interesting ideas.  I'm working on facilitating her efforts.

On Friday afternoon, Rose Red filled out an application for a passport and looked up the costs for one of her dream travel adventures.

Reality hit her hard.

During our Book of Mormon reading, Pixie has been working on a play mat quilt to be a baby gift for a church friend/leader.  This is a tentative layout for the final quilt.  The squares have lovely textures, and she'll stick some crinkly and squeaky surprises under some of the squares before she's done.
We managed to read aloud together from David Copperfield about 3 nights this week.  We're reading it on my phone with my kindle reader, so I don't know how many pages we've read, but after at least a dozen nights' reading, we're only 25% of the way through!  This is quite the investment, and we can hardly imagine where the story will go from here, but overall we're enjoying it.

I'm grateful to say that I finally know who Mr. Micawber and Uriah Heep are, and I can understand literary jokes about them. :)

Linking here.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

A Week, Briefly (We're Heading Slowly Into This)

Ummm, school hasn't started here.

But it has.

It's kind of out of my control.

I guess I could put my foot down and make it stop.

But why?

I'm still working on a schedule and chore charts for the year ahead.  It's time for a system change in the chore department as the kids are a year older and a year more experienced.

The one plan I am committed to is an hour's quiet time after lunch for each child under 8 . . . and maybe for me.  I've been working on training the kids how to do this for just about a week now.

They're getting there.

The babies are the wild card, but isn't that what babies always are?

So, it's August and local public schools start in a week.


I'm not ready for that.

At all.

I did counsel with my husband about the darling, super-fun-sounding forest school that would happen every Monday of the school year.  We decided against it.

Immediately I felt a sense of peace.

Right decision.

For our sweet Nature Angel who is the odd kid out in our family full of adopted multiples (she is 3 years younger than Belle and 2 1/2 years older than Little Princess), we're rejoining a local homeschool group (one that I tried to make work 2 years ago for my older crew, but couldn't, so I dropped the membership) and committing ourselves to finding her some friends.

Maybe an occasional park day will work.

Or even a brief and very local co-op.

We'll see.

The older girls and I are 11 days from finishing a prayer-inspired 30 Days to Read the Book of Mormon challenge.  We listen to it being read via the computer for an hour or more each day while we knit, rock babies, bake bread, etc..  It's all very domestic and charming--even Rose Red's tendency to sleep instead of listening lends a comic air to the scene.

The littles continue to play outside for hours at a time.  That was the focus of our summer--teaching them how to play outside, and they're truly embracing the outdoor lifestyle.  They've learned to climb trees, make mud pies, pump themselves on swings, hang upside down, roll down hills, balance on creek stones, hunt for crayfish, and lots of other joyful childhood outdoor activities.

I'm beginning to see truly miraculous emotional, physical, and cognitive development in them.

Tuesday is still therapy day for Ladybug and Brother, but that will change to Wednesdays in a week.

Pixie and I spent some happy time together looking up free homeschool planning pages for her high school days.  We ended up creating our own pages just for her, but we were inspired by what we found.

I really like working with Pixie!

We also worked together on Monday as she edited the back-to-school photos she took of all her siblings (Rose Red and I took hers).  She's spent the whole summer working on photography and photo editing skills, and I just love her work.

(Pictures to be posted in a week or so.)

For the summer Wednesday has been our breakfast-at-the-park day.

We get up and head right out the door with a picnic breakfast.  Lately temperatures have been in the 80s before dawn, so we've rolled right into our swimsuits and headed out to spray parks.  We had a grand time at the spray park this week; I just wish I'd had the courage to ask the teenage couple who were also there to cut out the PDA.

Their rather obscene behaviors gave my teen daughters and me a lot to talk about in the van on the way home.

As I worked on chore charts after lunch (during that quiet half hour we're practicing) Nature Angel asked if she could start her school.

"Do you really want to get started now?"

"Yes!!!" she exclaimed.

"Well, since you can work independently, who am I to stand in your way?"

She happily went to work.

And found out that she needed a little more guidance than either of us expected.

While I was engaged in helping her, Little Princess studied the directions for her curriculum (the same as Nature Angel, only the grade 2 level), found the pre-curriculum assessment page and asked me to time her reading.  She had to wait 15 minutes while I took care of the babies (who'd woken from their naps) and answered questions for some of the other children (the half hour was over), but help her I did because she was so determined.

Then she completed the first 2 lessons in the book.

Ladybug is jealous.

But I'm really, really, really not ready to work with her yet.  She will have to wait until I have enough peace in my heart about this school year to share that peace with her . . . as we work together.

While the littles played in the water and mud I read this book.

It's awesome.

It says exactly what I've been hungry for, but I've felt scattered and unorganized and unable to verbalize my feelings.  I think I can get organized now because I needed to really think about the home management and homeschooling principles the author teaches.

Less is more.

While I watched littles and read outside, Pixie--ever so industrious--made muffins and scrambled eggs for dinner.  Not only has she completed many, many hours of photography study, she's also completed a home economics course, and she's happily practicing her skills.

Thursday was crazy hot, and my priority of the day was cleaning out the refrigerator and getting a bit of grocery shopping done.

Nature Angel sat down after lunch to do another school assignment--she's quite faithful about that.

I sat during the hottest part of the day with my feet in one of our wading pools while the littles splashed around me and a notebook and pen in hand so that I could work yet again on our homeschool schedule for the fall.

I know it will get tweaked and changed as the year progresses, but I need some sort of workable plan to start with, and I've not had any success for a month.  I've been praying and working and counseling and cutting and reworking.

I found many ways it won't work.

I put off Little Princess's request do "do school" all afternoon.

At 8:30 pm (as I was reading David Copperfield aloud for our family reading time), she reminded me that she was still waiting.

I closed the book, and we talked about maps and made a floor plan drawing of our kitchen and living room.

This is why I need a schedule.

When Daddy took her upstairs to tuck her in, I returned to my notebook and scheduling efforts.

I think the Lord answered my prayers and rewarded my work late that night.  I need to study it again in the light of day . . . see if any glaring errors show up.

I took everyone under 10 to the zoo on Friday.

Then I worked on our schedule some more.  The kids gave lots of positive feedback, and I'm finding that it will allow for the flexibility we want/need.

I think it's a go!

Nature Angel and Little Princess did another lesson each in their schoolbooks while the big girls had an outing to a small local waterpark, and Dad and the littlest kids worked on digging out space for the awesome sandpit that is to be.

Our cousins came over in the evening, and we had a grand time laughing and visiting together.

The plan for next week is to start practicing our early morning and chore routines every day.

Then we'll dive into math on Wednesday--when our public school friends go back to school full time.

(Linking here)

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Summer Summary


We visited a library petting zoo.

We played games at the library, too.

Nature Angel created and ran a preschool program:  She called it "boy time". . .  

 . . . and "girl time."

We did lots of gorgeous hair styles.

We provided temporary shelter for an injured dove.

And we went to the lake often!!!!

We climbed rocks . . .

 . . . and got brave on park climbing structures.

We did a lot of digging in the sand.

We put up an 18 foot rope swing.

We went to library science programs to see cool animals.

And we got even braver about climbing!  
The big girls went away to camp (some more than once!)


We celebrated the 4th at home.

We had a lot of picnics.

 One really, really hot day we played with frozen ice balls.

We drew pictures--this one is by Nature Angel.  Can you see the peacock?
Belle knitted a monster for Lola.

Pixie cooked and baked and cooked some more as she worked on a home economics class.
We did some more awesome hair!
We took selfies.  This is Pixie.

We played in the rain.

We got very goofy.
We lost teeth!!!!!
The teens reveled in teen-ness; this was what they ate one night . . . all night!
We played in the treehouse.  It was fun when we found a buried pulley that we cleaned off, fixed up, and put to good use.
We played in the creek bed--all dry in the summer.  (We didn't get pictures of the day it rained so hard that the creek overflowed!  We played in it--we just didn't get pictures.)

We spent more time at the park--here are Pixie and Super Star getting wild.
I found this sweet tray one day, nestled under the mulberry tree.  I don't know which child(ren) made it.
Sometimes we were very tired.
Super Star got her first pair of high heels.
And we dressed up as the solar system to attend the homeschool Starry Night dance.


A few rainy days were a welcome respite from the heat!
We began a rather ambitious project in the yard.  Lots and lots of digging!!!
Pixie learned to bake perfect bread.  This is only 1 loaf, but she makes 4-8 loaves at a time to keep us happy.

We had close encounters with nature. (Photo by Pixie--a lot of our photos are by Pixie!)
And more close encounters.
We loved on our babies.
Having two babies at once is such a miracle (and such a challenge!)
We played in the grass.
We mended broken things (This is Super Star sewing our ripped chair back together.)
We built hidey-holes . . . some were less hidden than others.
We built fairy houses in the woods.
Mom and Dad went away overnight one night, and Auntie R-- came to stay.  Here are the triple cousins enjoying a story with Auntie.
Nature Angel went to a ball game with friends.
Super Star baked awesome banana bread.
We ate breakfast at the park every Wednesday of the summer.
We played at spray parks.
We played in the mud . . .
 . . . built leaf boats . . .
 . . . and played in the mud some more.

The summer isn't really over, but the new school year is creeping up in spite of my best efforts, and our weekly updates begin again this week.

I hope there are lots more muddy, watery, parky, grassy, hidey-holey, happy pictures of summer still to come.