Friday, September 23, 2016

A Week, Briefly (In Which I Find Myself Back on Meds)

Last week's crisis was such that I am back on anti-depression meds.  Usually I only need them for post-partum depression, but my body chemistry is not okay without them right now.

I feel embarrassed.

I'm not sure why.

But I do.

So I keep repeating to myself what my mom says to me.

"Thank goodness for good medication!"

And I am moving very, very slowly through my days.

Photo credit:  Pixie
 The homeschool camp out was last weekend.  I did not stay overnight.  Instead I stayed home with the 6 youngest, while Sir Walter Scott (more of a knight in shining armor than ever) took the older 6 camping.  The next morning he came home to pick the rest of us up to spend the day at the campsite.

That was enough.

It was joyful and satisfying as it was.

I've abandoned our afternoon school plans . . . for now.

We are getting plenty done with our Morning Meeting, Symposium, individual school time, and dance.   We covered several history lessons, a geography lesson about continents and pangaea (I guess I forgot that we did a pangaea puzzle just a couple of years ago . . . c'est la vie . . . it was new to the middles and youngers, and review never hurt anyone).

Photo credit:  Pixie

We've exhausted all of the fun we can get out of reading Oso Pardo, Oso Pardo and singing a song in Spanish about colors.  We've moved on to Harold y el Lapiz de Color Morado.  Pixie told me that getting too much in Spanish at once is overwhelming, so we're reading about Harold in both Spanish and English and choosing a focus word each day and letting the rest wash over us.

We're continuing our artist study of Pieter Bruegel, and the kids seem to quite enjoy studying his paintings--this week we focused on The Tower of Babel and The Adoration of the Kings.

We've put away our poem and song (Trees by Joyce Kilmer and Picnic of the World) and pulled out new ones to work on (Hope by Emily Dickinson and Grandma's Featherbed).

Summer came back this week, so I made sure that water was available each afternoon, and the younger set played in it with great satisfaction, though they weren't all that thrilled to return to the custom of bathing in the wading pools, as the water coming from the hose is cooler than it is in mid-August.

Photo credit:  Pixie
 Little Princess has passionately typed her story about The Missing Dress into the computer and discovered that she LOVES online math drills.

Nature Angel hasn't worked on her story in some weeks, but I think it is just resting for a season.  Instead she's been reading library books about a clan of pegai (pegasi?  I find both when I look it up) and drawing pictures of winged horses.

Rose Red lit up brighter than Christmas when a serendipitous college catalogue arrived that introduced her to the idea of event planning as a career option.

This just might be the spark that gets her fire going.

Awesome moments this week included finding a huge walking stick on one of our outdoor toys.  We touched it and exclaimed over its sticky feet and put it on a tree and watched it climb up so high.

Ladybug made friends with another butterfly.  I'm glad she's finding some joy--she's been choosing not to "do school" each day, and I can tell it hurts her to do so, but she won't choose otherwise.  She's feeling rather lost lately.

The little boys watch the sunrise each morning.  I love listening to their little boy chatter as they roam the front lawn looking occasionally at the east to see the progress of the morning light.  This morning (Friday) they saw a family of 3 deer.

The babies are talking more and more.  Favorite words? 

"Dop!"  (Stop--Baymax)
" ' e ' go!"  (Let go--Lola)
"Dadu?"  (Water--both of them)
"Ta ba!"  (Bathtub/Bathtime--Baymax)

We studied Pompeii and Mt Vesuvius--complete with baking soda and vinegar volcano on Thursday.  The best part was listening to Mister Man tell us the story of Pompeii because one of his favorite books is Pompeii: Buried Alive, and he knew almost every fact we were going over.   He told all about the destruction complete with hand gestures, wild facial expressions, and awesome sound effects.  We wish badly we had it on video, but we'll just have to remember the best we can.

Pixie's swing dance is officially choreographed, and practices have begun. 

The preschool story of the week was Wilfrid Gordon MacDonald Partridge by Mem Fox.

We're 58% of the way into David Copperfield.  What on earth happened to his aunt? 

Photo credit:  Pixie

(Linking here)

Friday, September 16, 2016

A Week, Briefly (In Which We Have Some Unmentionable Troubles)

This was a bad week.

Some good things happened.

Like having a picnic dinner on the deck one night

But it was a bad week.

I don't know how to write both honestly and appropriately about what happened, so that will have to suffice for now.

The little kids played in the mud every day.  That was good for them.  They made up long, highly-imaginative stories that helped them develop their brains.  They worked the mud with their hands, and they hauled and carried buckets of mud and water with their whole bodies.

I call that good preschool.

Mister Man finished reading Little House in the Big Woods--all by himself.  I'm reading it aloud to him and Ladybug, but he got interested and picked the book up one day during quiet hour.  For a week I hardly saw it out of his hands.  He read and narrated the chapters to me day in and day out until he'd suddenly read the whole thing.

Now he's reading Farmer Boy.

Ladybug's school got interrupted by the troubling events of the week.  I feel badly because she loves learning.

Little Princess completed just over a week's worth of math lessons, completed some spelling/grammar lessons, and typed up the story she dictated to me last week.  She's taking very seriously the completion of her 7-year-old challenge.  She sits with my phone reading/listening to the Book of Mormon for a good half hour every morning.

Nature Angel completed 3 math lessons (one day she was sick and forgot to do math, and we didn't do school on Friday), 4 language arts lessons, and 1 art lesson involving making her own color wheel for primary, secondary, and tertiary colors.

Belle and I had a talk about her academic talent that is not being appropriately challenged.  She agreed to double up on science and start a Latin course.  She's working beautifully, and isn't even breaking a sweat.  I don't want to overwhelm her, but I suspect she needs even more challenging work.  I'll just watch for a while.  She says the science is fun, and the Latin is interesting.  She also does daily Math lessons, literature reading/narrations, scripture study, and creative writing in addition to teaching math to Mister Man and participating in family lessons.

Super Star dragged this week due to being heavily affected by the cold that has been working its way through the family.  She still completed 6 science lessons, 4 math lessons, 4 days of literature/narrations, family lessons, a week's worth of Home Economics, and some creative writing.  She's dreamed for a long time of becoming an icthyologist, but this week she researched what it really takes to become one.

It isn't a family-friendly sort of dream.  I've challenged her to think outside the box and imagine ways to study sharks without having to pay for a phD or live on a research boat for the rest of her life.

Baymax is learning to brush his teeth.
 Pixie remains highly self-motivated.  She's writing, reading, photographing (most of the photos in this post are hers), doing algebra, drawing, thinking, organizing, choreographing, learning and practicing new photo-editing skills, cooking, helping, and generally grabbing life with both hands and reveling in it.

Rose Red talked with her Spanish teacher about her quiz grade last week.  It turns out that the whole class failed the exam, and the teacher told her not to worry about that grade.  Later in the week Rose Red and another student were lauded by the teacher as the only students in the class to correctly translate a brief assignment.  She had a true exam this week, and she feels confident she did well.  She remains less-than-committed to the rest of her school work, though.

We're 53% of the way through David Copperfield.  That Steerforth is a rogue!

The preschool book of the week was Abiyoyo.

We had morning meeting 5 out of 5 days, and we're working on the second paragraph of The Living Christ.  

We only had 2 symposiums--one history lesson about Nero and one music appreciation lesson about Bach and Aaron Copeland (odd combination, I know, but it was interesting nonetheless).

Nature Angel and Little Princess

(Linking here)

Friday, September 9, 2016

A Week, Briefly (In Which I Succumb to Doubt)

Monday was a holiday for most students, but my husband so often works holidays (he's a critical care nurse), and we take so many partial days off here and there, that unless we've been able to make special plans, we just school away.

I tried 3 different ways to make special plans, but they all fell through, so we had about 3/4 of a school day.

And then I went grocery shopping.

For my sake, I'd prefer to combine Morning Meeting and symposium into one session and then break for independent studies.  We have to do that on Wednesdays after breakfast at the park.  But for the babies'/littles' sake it's better to have our brief Morning Meeting, break for play time/independent studies, then come back together for a snack and symposium.

Our preschool book of the week was Just Me by Marie Hall Ets.

We're still working on memorizing the first paragraph of The Living Christ.  I think we just about have it, but the song is so very lovely that I don't mind at all finishing out the week before introducing the second paragraph.

We've been working on memorizing Trees by Joyce Kilmer for 2 months now!  The older girls, of course, have it down, but the littles are NOT getting it.  I'm not sure whether to keep plugging away or just move on and come back to it in a year or so.  The poetry memorization we do around the table is specifically for the littles (the older ones are assigned to work on more challenging poetry independently).  I thought it was a sweet, straightforward poem, but it is very hard for them to keep it straight.

I sneak in moments to read when I can. :)
 Pixie is choreographing a swing dance for this year's program.  She's convinced Nature Angel to dance with her in the boy's part, and they spent at least 3 hours working together on the 1minute 24 second number.  My best guess is that there still many more 3 hour sessions to go.

Pixie also turned in her first photography assignment.  She had a hard time meeting the deadline and accepted a "B" grade from me because she hurriedly submitted it with half of the photos still in need of editing.  She agreed that an "A" grade would not reflect her true capabilities.  She also acknowledged that she is capable of better time management and has already explained how she'll do that.

The first assignment was a 24 photo autobiographical collection.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Tuesday was our first day of our new Explorer's Club.  I prayed and thought rather a lot about it and quite nervously put together a plan and extended invitations to the local homeschool community to join.

When no one responded, I was relieved.

Then someone did.

Then another someone did.

(Thank goodness it stopped there!)

Suddenly we had a club, and the kids were so excited when the first meeting rolled around!

Bell and Baymax disappear down the path.
 I put quite a bit of time into organizing get-to-know-you games and a scavenger hunt.  I reviewed the song I wanted us to sing as our theme for the year.   I purchased snacks and checked and double checked my plans for timing.

The meeting came.

It was a challenge (teaching other people's kids always helps me see that my own kids are more awesome than I usually think they are), but it wasn't impossible.

Then we got home.

My crew fell apart.  Tantrums, fighting, whining, defiance, moping, sulking, crying.  And yes, this can happen often for us, but this was at the level of overwhelmed children--not a normal level for us at all.

I'm wondering if it was wisdom to have gotten us into this.  Maybe our weekly dancing is all we can handle (and barely).  So I sent an email to the other moms explaining my concerns for my own family and letting them know that I'll lead another meeting to see if we get over the first day jitters and find the club to be a good growing experience for us.

Otherwise it will be a seriously short-lived club.

We stuck to basics in the morning--scriptures, math, literature, history.

Nature Angel asked me if she could sew a tiny mattress for a doll house she built this week.  I thought she'd need help, and I was so busy that I put her off time and time again.  As guilt nagged, I finally said yes.  She put the machine together and sewed that little mattress all by herself!!!!
 In the afternoon I found Rose Red curled up with a geography book.  She looked up as I passed by her and said, "This book is so interesting!"

I replied, "Be sure to record it on your geography reading page.  This counts as school."

"Really?" she wondered, but not for long, because the lure of the pages was irresistible.

That's 2 times in 2 weeks that I've had cause to explain to my children that their activities are educational.

How is it that they didn't already know that?

I've been thinking about this.

Recently we've had a huge (percentage-wise) migration of teens in our local homeschool group choosing to leave homeschooling in order to enroll in the public high schools.  They're doing so because a couple of kids who first left the group have been telling the homeschooled kids that they're not learning the right stuff, and that if they want a "real" education they need to go to a "real school."

The peer-pressure has been too great to resist.

I've spent years reading blogs, reading books, talking with other moms, and attending homeschool convention classes about project-based learning, individualized instruction, emergent curriculum, and learning to be comfortable in my own skin and in our own homeschool.

I thought I was teaching the same to my children, but I'm wondering now.

I thought they would grow confident in their own skin simply by living, learning, and growing, but  . . . I don't know that is actually happening.

I'm wondering if we need to not only allow our children the freedom to learn in non-traditional ways but we need to overtly demonstrate the value of how they're living and to speak with open gratitude for our freedoms.

Thursday was horrid . . . again.

I'm wishing so badly that I could cut our dance group from our schedule, but to do that would be to break the hearts of many of my children.

So we keep soldiering on--through tantrums, intentional urinating, fights, and all kinds of mayhem.

We did complete an interesting symposium session on cartography.

And we got lots of basics done . . . before we left for dance.

Pixie took this awesome picture!!
Friday's rain wrecked my morning run. 

So did wakeful babies.

I felt the tension building by 7 am, though, so I asked Belle to keep an eye on the kids while I dashed out the door for 10 minutes--just long enough for me to get my heart rate up and breathe some rainy-fresh air.

Then we dove into a full morning of school.

By afternoon, I was done.  I'd had an activity planned from A Year of Playing Skillfully, but I dumped it in favor of letting the kids ride bikes in the driveway while I cleaned the kitchen and made homemade bread and supervised some of Rose Red's schooling.

Ladybug made friends with a butterfly:

And Baymax climbed into a pile of folded laundry and found a burrito left over from Thursday's lunch in the diaper bag.  Apparently it didn't gross him out a bit, so he hunkered down and ate it.

Oh, toddlers!!

 We did have morning meeting and symposium 5 out of 5 days this week.  Everyone completed 4 or 5 math assignments, and everyone read, wrote, and shared ideas. 

Pixie turned in her second photography assignment (on time and beautifully edited) about her family.  Here are 3 photos that make me want to cry--they are so beautiful!

We're 47% of the way through David Copperfield. 

We hate Uriah Heep! 

We love David's love affairs.

(Linking here)

Saturday, September 3, 2016

A Week, Briefly (In Which We Start a Full School Schedule)

The feeling I wake up with each morning is panic--panic that our schedule won't work; panic that our days will fall apart; panic that I simply cannot do it.

Then I get going.

I just put one foot in front of the other each minute that passes.

And it's okay.

It's not fabulous (as I write Brother is staging a screaming tantrum on our deck--there's nothing I can do but wait it out).

But it is okay.

I did leave enough breathing room in our schedule.

Our days do fall apart, but we put them back together . . . or they end.  Either way.

I know I cannot do my work alone.  It takes family teamwork and my Heavenly Father's constant guidance and support (I wonder how many guardian angels hang out around our house).  Mostly I fail.  But I keep trying.

And then I wake up to panic again.

I'm hoping, sincerely, that the panic will fade as the weeks pass.

Panic notwithstanding, we started school in full this week.

This wasn't really a full day as we mostly passed out the remaining school books and supplies and went over our daily schedule.  Older kids spent time getting to know their books.  Littler ones had fun crawling into my lap to do initial lessons.

A new tradition we're beginning is early morning preschool story time.  When the kids are first awake, and after they are dressed,  we gather on the couch to read a story before playing or working or anything else.  I'll be choosing what I consider to be high quality books that the kids tend to overlook on their own.  We'll be reading the same book all week to help the Ladybug, Brother, and Little Brother develop their ability to make predictions and their own storytelling skills.  This week's book was The Napping House

We had friends who now live out of state pass through on their way to Washington D.C.  They called to say, "Hey!  We're here!  Can you play?"  So we did.

As a result I forgot all about Rose Red's 2nd assessment appointment that evening.


I've sent my fervent, humble apologies to the counselor.

But catching up with old friends was awesome!

This was a for-real-and-true full school day.

And it was our first take-a-walk-around-the-block-after-quiet-time day.

It was wonderful!

We saw at least 7 different butterfly species; we looked at algae and water bugs in puddles; we picked up crawdad claws from an unfortunate crawdad who must have been flooded out of the stream into the street and either smashed by a car or eaten by a bird; we collected seed pods; we looked at grass seed and listened to the stream bubble over rocks.

Nature Angel adopted an injured butterfly.  We all took turns holding it.

We neither wrote nor drew anything.  We just walked and looked and talked and touched.

I'm satisfied.

And I'm looking forward to walking again.

The highlight of this day came at bedtime as I was reading Mister Man's chosen story:  Miss Rumphius.  There is a picture of Miss Rumphius as a little girl helping her grandpa paint the skies for the paintings he sells for a living.  Ladybug pointed to Miss Rumphius and said, "She's like that man we read about . . . that painter . . . that man . . . Pieter Bruegel . . . who painted Icarus in the water."

Seriously, we're spending barely 10 minutes a day (and Wednesday was day 3) reading and talking about What makes a Bruegel a Bruegel? during our symposium (term shamelessly stolen from Sarah Mackenzie) hour.

It's working!

If you'd asked me earlier on Wednesday if symposium was any use to Ladybug, I'd have said no.  But I stand (gladly) corrected now.

We had breakfast at the park--in the pouring rain.

Why not?

We came home to complete our morning chores, conduct Morning Meeting, and work through symposium before sending Ladybug and Brother off with Sir Walter Scott for therapy while the rest of us worked on independent school subjects.

I'm coming to the conclusion that the time of day we complete the work is not as important as just doing it each day.  I like being able to pull different kids close to me at different times, working when they feel ready to hang out with me instead of by the clock.

That said, I still keep a good schedule overall.

Perhaps the regular schedule gives us the freedom to depart from it when we need to?

I'll have to think on that for a while.

We did our first Geography Through Art project.  I didn't have chalk to do the recommended art project (I thought I did, but the box that I remember being full of pastels and art chalk was simply gone!), but a 5 minute internet search led me to a project that we could complete without a trip to the art store.


Painting with 9 kids ages 3-14 would have been doable, but we threw 2 1-year-old toddlers into the mix.

That was no mean feat.

Some are still in the process over product phase.  Some are definitely all about product.  The babies were all about touching as much paint as they could.

We used washable tempera.

There's no permanent damage.

Thursday started fine but turned yucky--like last week!

This time it was Rose Red instead of the littles.  In fact, the littles did great.

We got through plenty of school in the morning--including finishing our painted Geography project from the day before--and dancing was far better than it was last Thursday.  Perhaps we are finding our groove.

What was the nicest part of the day was how peacefully everyone under 10 played outside when we got home.  Their independent play left me plenty of space to have a banking crisis (totally temporary, and totally taken care of now) and then to retreat to playing hymns on the piano to settle my anxiety.

I haven't had the luxury of turning to the piano for comfort in a loooooong time.

Super Star made dinner (pancakes).

Everyone went to bed with full bellies.

Rose Red settled down and tried to make amends.

This was marked on our calendar as an almost-full school day because I knew we'd be meeting with our nephew and his girlfriend in the afternoon (visiting from California), but I didn't factor in the fact that the girls and Sir Walter Scott would be assigned to help with the church youth fund-raiser, so our school day would be truncated by 10:30 am.

Rose Red had her first Spanish quiz.  She's pretty sure she failed it, even though she tried to study in her own way.  She refused to follow any of the study tips that I offered (gently--I am truly working to not boss her through this).  When she admitted her fear, I offered sympathy and advised her to talk to her teacher after she sees her grade on Wednesday.

I hope she does it.

She could shine at this class if she can let go of her pre-conceived notions about teachers and college classes, but she'll have to learn in her own time.

We completed Mystery of History vol 2 lesson 3 during our Friday symposium; it was about Paul's missionary journeys.  One of the suggested lesson ideas was for the students to pretend they'd been shipwrecked on Malta with Paul and to write a letter home describing Paul and the events surrounding the shipwreck.  I gave the assignment tentatively to everyone who could write, only asking for 2 sentences from Little Princess and 5 sentences from Nature Angel, but asking for a full page minimum from Pixie, Super Star, and Belle.

Their letters were charming!  They were a delightful mix of imagination and fact.  I enjoyed each one, and all of the girls but Little Princess enjoyed writing them.  I'm so glad that I dared to depart from the plain narrations I usually ask for.

After morning meeting and symposium, I had a lovely time working with Nature Angel and Little Princess on their math and language arts lessons.

After that, Mister Man and I read some interesting books together.  We take turns reading aloud with him snuggled on my lap.  This week we've been enjoying Wild Places and If You Lived in Colonial Times.  On Friday Mister Man wanted me to read If You Lived in Colonial Times to him while he read to me from Little House in the Big Woods.  When he finished reading aloud, he curled up in one of the wing chairs in our music room and read to himself for over 2 hours.  He came out happily, showing me that he'd read up through the chapter about Christmas and was now well ahead of where we were in our evening read aloud sessions with him and Ladybug.

I continue to be boggled by my reading boy.

Sir Walter Scott took Ladybug, Brother, and Little Brother with the big girls to work on the fundraiser.
They also paused for a moment to enjoy the day.
 After lunch, we had such a good time visiting with Cousin A--- and his darling girlfriend.  Cousin A--- is a talented musician, and he played the guitar and sang both for and with us.

We had kids running in three different directions in the evening:  Nature Angel to a swim party, Rose Red to a cultural arts festival with her friends, and Pixie and Super Star to a high school football game with some church friends.  I skipped chores and settled outside in the gentle September sunshine to read while most of the remaining children (Belle read indoors and Little Princess did some crafting) made mud pies until dinner.

Ladybug asked me why I didn't do school with her.  I didn't have much of an answer other than to say that playing outside was much better school for her than sitting at the table with a pencil in her hand.  I was afraid she'd feel slighted (because she usually does), but the blue sky was so very lovely, and the mud was so very squishy, and the breeze was so very gentle that she just smiled and went back to playing.

A tender mercy.

We're still working out kinks in how to I can monitor the older girls' work while allowing them the independence they need.  Mostly, they need to remember to bring their work to the kitchen island where I'll see it, but I need to provide a more concrete and safe place to put it (some sort of bin or crate).

Overall, I'd call it a good first week.

P. S.
We're still reading David Copperfield.  We're at 39% and enjoying it.

(Linking here.)