September 30, 2003

Toys for Iraqi Children... Some fellow bloggers are putting together toys for children in Iraq. Please support their efforts and read about what you can do to help here.

Today in Review... Today was all about informal learning as we went as I was unable to really have much structure being sick and recovering from our special "moment" at the store. But we did manage to read a variety of books related to the letter A, work on our scripture memorization (Proverbs 15:1),added more items to our A "box", pointed out objects we saw during the course of our day that started with A, listened to more of "On the Banks of Plum Creek", discussed the planets and the continents, reviewed the concept of pollination (this time as it applies to apple trees), watched an Irish step dancing movie to encourage Rhia's stepdancing, did several online coloring sheets (African art, the Alamo, an angel, and an alligator), and worked through about a third of Enchanted Learning's interactive English Picture Dictionary: A is for... webpage. An OUTSTANDING resource if you work on one letter of the alphabet at a time as we do here. The kids really like it and the resource offers a wide variety of information geared towards older children but easily adapted to be digestible by my kids.

I love blogging because it helps me realize that even on a day when I feel we haven't accomplished much "schooling" I can look back and realize how much we truly have done and learned in the normal course of our day. You see today I spent a good portion of my day talking on the phone or email doing research on mortgages and the warmest winter coats for kids in Minnesota, we had an "event" in the store and had to run errands. All of this was on top of a day where three out of four of us are sick! So it is encouraging to me to reread what I wrote and realize I really don't have anything to feel guilty about.

A great resource... A lover of good children's literature but a busy mother of three I enjoy this book: Valerie and Walter's Best Books for Children. This resource offers a good review of many children's books that cross a variety of ages (from birth to age 14 according to the book). We have gotten several of our recent books from this resource. Happy reading!

Letter A Day Reading from the Library... Today we continued with our A Theme and tried to coordinate our reading with the theme. Some of the books we read today are:

Archibald Frisby by Michael Chesworth
Anno's Aesop by Mitsumasa Anno
An Apple Tree Through the Year by Claudia Schnieper
Angelina in the Wings by Katherine Holabird
Alligator Sue by Sharon Doucet
Angelina Ballerina by Katherine Holabird
Dr Suess's ABC

Then we also read several cute nightime stories. While I would recommend Little Sibu (artwork is great and I love orangutans - see Serona's recent post) I would also recommend that you preview it for young children and not read it at night. The story is about a mother helping her child grow up and leave her and prompted questions from my children that led me to believe they were concerned about me pushing them away. Not the best before bed questions and feelings in my opinion.

Tonight at bed we read:

Little Sibu: An Orangutan Tale by Sally Grindley
Little Bird and the Moon Sandwich by Linda Berkowitz
The Napping House by Audrey and Don Wood

Favorites from the day. Rhiannon liked Little Bird and the Moon Sandwich, I think it reminded her of the Little Bear story where he tries to put the moon in a pail to bring home to his mother. Ciaran's favorite tonight was Little Sibu he really liked the organgutans though he was sad about him being far away from his mother. My favorite was definitely Archibald Frisby. Any author who can make science, and the kids who love it, seem so cool deserves an award! My kids want to learn about the planets tomorrow and about fossil digs from that book. I also like the simple way it was drawn and illustrated.

Despite the fact that we have nearly a thousand books in our house and many of them children's (though not nearly the majority) we still seem to live at the public library. Ours has a wonderful hold system which allows me to browse online and reserve books and then have the librarians locate them for me and put them all together on a shelf for me so all I have to do is collect them all at once and pick them up. They even send me an email letting me know when they have all been located for me. It is wonderful, especially since we are at the library with three kids in tow. Still we always manage to browse the children's book section each time before we leave as the kids each get to pick out one or two books each visit and I will never tire of looking at children's books. However, it is wonderful that I need not search and search for all the good books we want to read that we know by title. This system makes my lesson plans so each as I keep open my library page and reserve books as I locate them in my lesson plan (both online and hardcopy resources) and I never have to forget the books I want. The system even has a "later list" for books I want to remember but not reserve yet. Another wonder of technology that I am truly thankful for. So we use our library a lot. I think (blushing) that I have nearly 50 books out or on reserve right now. But our motto is you can never read too much!

More Letter A Words from today...

Animals: African elephant, African penguin, African wildcat, agouti, Airedale terrier, Alaskan malamute, albatross, albertosaurus, allosaurus, alpoca, anaconda, angelfish, angelshark

Food: Almond, Artichoke, Avocado

Places: Africa, Antartica, Australia, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Alamo, America

Science and Nature Terms: amber, amoeba, amphibian, anatomy

Descriptors: ajar, alike, all

Misc: Angle, Aileran

The kids enjoyed talking about each of these words and seeing pictures online to represent or illustrate many of the concepts. We are off to the library to pick up some more books that would be good to read during our A week.

"No I'm Sorry, Someone Must Have Lost a Child... Today included one of those moments every parent dreads. We went coat shopping (in and of itself not a fun event for non-shoppers, and for anyone with three children under 5) and we had a "moment". It was the kind of moment that everyone else's kids have but not your own precious children. Well the more kids you have the more you understand and sympathize with those women who have the child having the moment. Today it was me.

Ciaran, a normally pleasant 2 1/2 year old boy was not so pleasant in the store today. Truth be told he was terrible. We had a screaming, kicking, hitting, throw myself on the floor and you will have to drag me out kind of temper tantrum. Now to fill you in the rest of the picture, I had Sirah in the sling (newborn) and Rhia was by my side. I tried picking him up to which he started hitting and squirming so much I was worried about Sirah so that was not going to work. I had no idea how we were going to get out of this store. By the way this is a calm and quiet store not a real "kid-friendly" place and we were getting lots of blank stares.

A very kind woman who I am indebted to approached me and asked if I needed help. I said "Yes! Truth be told, yes I do. Thank you for asking." She replied with " I understand I have 5 of my own" and she proceeded to pick Ciaran up and ask where my car was and just carried him right there until I opened the door and she put him in. I was so thankful for this kind woman's generosity and understanding. I have no idea how I would have gotten us all out of the store safely otherwise.

So the next time you see a mother or any person in need of help, please go up and ask if they do. Don't think they might be too embarrassed, rather help them resolve the difficult albeit embarrassing situation.


September 29, 2003

Reading with the letter A... Today we tried to read books that had a character or main subject that began with the letter A. I thought I would share a few of the books we read with you:

Angelina and the Butterfly by Katherine Holabird
Anansi and the Moss Covered Rock by Eric a. Kimmel
The Mouse and the Apple by Stephen Butler
Angelina and the Rag Doll by Katherine Holabird
Arthur's New Baby by Marc Brown
Aslan adapted from CS Lewis

Ciaran's favorite was Anansi - he especially likes the "KPOM" part! Rhia's favorite is Aslan, though she always reminds me that I am not as good of an Aslan as Serona (who performed Aslan in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe not too long ago) and I don't do the voices well. _Sigh_ already a critic of my reading. Atleast Sirah seems content with whatever we are reading (so long as she is in my arms or nursing) and I do enjoy the special reading time we share.

A is for... Today we worked on the letter A, we collected an items that begin with A in our little "A soundbox" and we kept a word list of all the A words we used today (we went looking for many of these) and I thought I would share what we have collected so far. I divide the list into categories and we try our best to fit the words into the categories and when we are done we will have a similar sheet for each letter. We work on this sheet all week long.

Animals: Ankylosaurus, ant, alligator, antelope, ape, aardvark, acrocanthosaurus
Bible Stories: Adam and Eve
Body Parts: Arm, Ankle
characteristics of God: Awesome, Attentive
Clothing: Apron, Athletic Wear
Emotions: Anger, Afraid
Flowers: Aster
Food: Apple, Acorn Squash, Applesauce
Household: Artwork
Names: Arthur, Angelina, Aslan
People: Astronaut, acrobat, John Adams, adult,
Places: Africa, Antartica, Australia
Science and Nature: Animal, Antlers, Acorn
Toys: Abacus
Transportation: Antique, airplane, ambulance
Descriptors: Above
Math and Time: April, Addition, Adding
Tools: Ax, anchor
Misc: Arrow
Challenge Word: Antidisestablishmentarianism

By the end of the week that list will be longer and there will be a few more categories added that we did not manage to work on today. We talked about each of these words and what they meant. Not because I believe my children will understand all these concepts perfectly but I want them to be familiar with the language and different concepts even ones way more advanced than their level. Someday their brain will be jogged and they will be able to recall this mental post that has began and can add the material to the word as they can understand it. Besides they are actually interested now and enjoy learning and they surprise me with what they pick up and retain.

Fun with Phonics... Thought I would give you a head's up on our plans for the week. For starters I will probably be blogging less as we have a lot going on here. I intend to start Phonics Pathways this week and work on the Bob books with Rhia, we sampled a bunch of different phonics books and these are the ones she seemed to like the best.

Ciaran and I are going to work on the letter A and E this week in much the same fashion I worked with Rhiannon on her letters during preschool years. We pick a letter or two for the week and we just play with it all week. We read the letter appropriate book from the Sound Box book series (a great series found at most library's), then we start a word list that I keep with different types of words (fruit, vegetables, actions, feelings, places, names, bible stories, people, flowers, etc) and we fill in all the words that start with the letter throughout the week. We also keep our own "soundbox" a cardboard box which we collect objects that start with that letter in throughout the week. We play games and learn songs that start with that letter, eat food that begins with it, do crafts appropriate to that letter and in general just absorb ourselves in that letter. Another resource we use is Letter of the Week I just incorporate much of her information into my days. At the end of the week we make a collage from magazine clippings of the letter and a writeup of the activities we did. Sometimes I also include a field trip or two that fit in well with the letter we are doing. Some weeks I also add a theme (Apples for A, Bears for B, Clouds for C, etc). This week we will be doing Apples for A.

The kids really have alot of fun doing this and it doesn't take much planning on my part. I usually spend about 15 minutes prep time for a week and then we just move through our days playing with the letter rather than structuring a particular time to do things. I also really like the end product we end up with in our little binder (a word list, a letter collage, one-two projects, several coloring pages and one writing sheet, and a summary of our work) and it is easy to do and maintain. Rhia is ready for a bit more structure so we are going to try Phonics Pathway and see how it goes. I plan to try to coordinate the kids letters as well so I can just do different age appropriate tasks with both and much of it will be done together.


A real record label... Serona over at CyberEcology has a niece piece on a new record label that is for the artists and by the artists. MagnaTune is an open source radio station and definitely worth a listen. They allow free previews of songs, cd's for $5.00, and give the artists 50% of profits AND they get to keep the rights to their own music (unlike many other labels). Check it out.


September 27, 2003

Lessons over dinner... Tonight Serona had a great and easy idea for dinner and a lesson. He prepared a "raw foods" dinner of various fruits and vegetables we had to liberate from our refrigerator. We each sat down to eat with a napkin and fork and the common plates on the table. The rules were you had to eat one of each fruit or vegetable before you could have a second one of that type (to ensure the kids would try and eat all the veggies and not fill up on fruit) and everyone had to eat atleast two of each item on the plates and then you could have whatever you wanted (this guaranteed that everyone got atleast two nectarines - the most popular in our house).

We had basic fruit and veggies: Carrots, celery, nectarines, apples, cucumbers and cantaloupe. As we ate dinner we talked about what a "raw foods" meal was and some of the health benefits of such a meal. We discussed how each item was grown, the color, the texture, the taste and whether it was a fruit or vegetable. Each child was asked a question in turn that was age appropriate and we all had alot of fun. Everyone was full when we were done which also made us realize how little we really need to eat to fill our tummies and meet our nutritional needs (it was not a completely raw meal as I encouraged them to drink soy milk which is clearly processed - but good protein) but they understood the lesson without us having to be complete purist in our point.

Our meal cleanup was very easy: a cutting board, a knife, a peeler, 4 forks and cups. I don't think I've ever had an easier night of dishes. Anyway I thought I would share as the kids really enjoyed it and it was a nice family time and an easy meal. I was skeptical that this would be enough food for us - but it was and we even had some left afterwards!

Cleaning House: online and off... Today was a sort of spring cleaning and organizing for our family. We have decided to make the plunge and leave Microsoft behind (atleast on one of our computers) and we (okay Serona) is installing Linnux on our computer. To do so meant we needed to go through all our old files and transfer those we wanted to keep to our other computer on the network, wipe the harddrive and install the new OS. Serona took on that arduous task and has spent the past three hours cleaning off our desktop and getting a laugh at some of the things we have saved.

While he was doing that I decided to tackle our paper files and clean them up a bit. We have a two drawer file cabinet in our basement which serves as an office and school and entertainment area. I've been wanting to clear out that file cabinet for homeschooling supplies and files, today I finally did. One drawer is kid resources: file folder games, felt kits, puzzles, manipulatives, felt letters, sandpaper letters, construction paper, writing paper, stickers and a few other odds and ends. The point was to have a kid friendly drawer that contains the supplies they need so they can help themselves. The rest of their supplies (markers, pencils, crayons, scissors, notebook and workbooks) are stored in their own individual desks. The bottom drawer is a mommy supply drawer. With things like our manuscript stamps for letters and numbers, my workbooks, lesson books, and my resource books and plans. Then I have a crate of miscellaneous supplies (extra notebooks, folders, binders, envelopes, etc) that is stored under my desk next to my general office supplies crate. I am happy with the organization and hopefully it will work long enough that I am happy that I did the work in the first place.

Doing all this cleaning and organizing helped me realize how much information we store and keep. It also got me wondering how much I really need to keep and how the best way to keep it is (both digital and hardcopy) and when should I get rid of it? I got to see some of my own packrat tendencies and also areas where I am disorganized and need improvement. I also realized how much this disorganization can hurt me (mainly I can not find what I want when I want it) and how "half-stepping" or trying to cut corners can only worsen the problem. For example Serona kept locating files I no longer knew existed or I had given up looking for awhile ago because they were too hard to find. The reason being when I created the file I didn't take the time to file it in a specific location leaving everything in a general "my documents folder". My pitiful defense tonight was "I am not against organization I just don't have time for it!"

Now I do know that organization will save me time and the extra 30 seconds it would have taken me to create a new folder and put it in it's appropriate location would have been time well used and saved me the 30 minutes I took in finding it. Lesson learned and I will try to improve and be more organized. I even filed all my bills and paperwork tonight and am caught up! Wow, wonder how long that will last?

Our family bio... For those of you who don't know us I thought I would give you a brief background on our family. There is Serona (the dad), he is in his late twenties and a computer programmer for a software company. He has two undergrad degrees in Political Science and Philosophy and a graduate degree in Communications, and is also a former debater. His interests are reading, writing (especially fantasy and science fiction), keeping up with current events and politics (especially RIAA and anything Wifi or tech related), blogging (CyberEcology), playing gamecube, anything and everything Star Wars, acting (he does on average two shows a year), and biking (on occasion he bikes the 10+ miles to work) to name a few.

Then there is me, Mother Tenn, also in my late twenties and a Stay at Home Mom. My undergrad studies were in Environmental Politics and I have an MA in Communications with an emphasis on Social Movements and Argumentation. My current interests are in reading (see recent reads), blogging (here and a few others), journaling (I maintain 5 journals actively: a prayer journal and a journal for each of my children, as well as an online journal for Serona and I), vegan cooking (see recent meal plans), research (especially children's health, breastfeeding, parenting and homeschooling), breastfeeding advocacy and support, hiking, biking (when not pregnant or immediately postpartum), yoga, pilates, water aerobics and bible studies (recent studies include "Postmoderism and Apologetics" and "A Woman After God's Own Heart).

Next come the children: Rhiannon, Ciaran, and Sirah. Rhiannon is a precocious 4 year old girl and is starting kindergarten studies this year. She enjoys Irish Step Dancing, being read to (anything and everything), field trips, butterflies, and playing board games (Sorry and Chutes and Ladders are current favorites). She is a performer at heart and always wants to be the center of attention. She loves to talk all day and her vocabulary is very advanced for her age as is her level of comprehension. She is beginning to read and can do simple math with manipulatives. She is VERY excited to do "school stuff" each day and will hound me until we do. Her current favorite books are The Little House on the Prairie series, The Chronicles of Narnia, and anything with princesses.

Next meet Ciaran, our two and a half year old son. Ciaran is an energetic little boy who is full of energy, empathy and artistic and athletic abilities. He loves bike riding, climbing anything and everything and building things. He loves lego's, lincoln logs, his tools and workbench. He is always trying to help clean, cook, or work in the yard, he just wants to be involved and help however he can. He learns in very hands on ways and loves his felt and sandpaper letters. He is also very artistic, loving paint, markers, clay and whatever else he can use creatively. He is always smiling (when he is not throwing a temper tantrum) and has recently really begun carrying on conversations (which are precious). He is a bit confused recently about whether he wants to be a big boy or a little boy.

Then there is Sirah our newborn. She reminds us why we love the baby days and is always willing to provide a much needed cuddle or smile. She spends most of her time snuggled in our arms or in the sling and she is content that way. She also provides great excuses to take a nap or sit down for awhile as we are still in the nurse all the time stage. She will be very familiar with computer sounds as I frequently blog while nursing her. I look forward to seeing what she adds to the mix.

Rounding out our family is our Australian Shepherd Guinness (like the excellent beer). He is a loving, patient and friendly though fiercely protective dog. He loves to run and spend time in the yard. He is learning how to get along in our chaotic and loud household.

We are Christian, environmentalists, social justice advocates, vegans and vegetarians (serona and rhiannon still have some limited dairy), right-leaning, techies, wired, outdoors loving, non tv watching, attachment parenting, extended breastfeeding, cloth diapering, crunchy granola, friendly, funny, highly educated, readers, researchers, and usually right. :) So come get to know us and stay awhile. We love having you.

Serona, Tenn, Rhiannon, Ciaran, Sirah and Guinness
Special Moments... Saturday mornings are my special time with my middle child, our son. His big sister has her Irish Step Dancing Class with daddy and his little sister usually naps so we have some us time. I really enjoy it. Today I let him pick what we would do. The first thing he wanted to do was cuddle up in my bed with his sister and me and read books. His selections from today:

Little Bear Treasury by Maurice Sendak
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
Dr Suess ABC by Dr. Suess
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.
Mother Goose by My First Treasury

We had a great time laying together and reading. He practiced his ABC's and reciting his favorite nursery rhymes and just enjoying the stories. He told me about what Little Bear and Emily were doing and turned his Sylvester toy into a rock and back again.

When we finished reading he asked to nurse, making sure I knew it was "portant" to him. We had some special nursing time and just cuddled and hugged, then he told me "Mommy, I love you" and kissed his baby sisters sleeping head. Then we got up and had a snack, a real fruit leather that for some reason my kids call a "date" and then he asked to play a game. I let him pick it.

He picked out Pretty Pretty Princess, a jewelry game of his big sisters. He wanted to do it by himself (he told me not to play) and he put all the jewelry on and as I type this he is wearing a plastic necklace and earring. We are having a grand time and now he would like me to play with him again so I am off.

Have a great weekend.

September 26, 2003

Individualized Learning... One of the best advantages I see to homeschooling is the ability to tailor the teaching style to the learning style of the child. I believe many public and private school teachers would also love to do that but would find it challenging and most likely downright impossible to tailor their teaching to 20-30 different styles of learning. But I will only need to adapt to three (unless we have some later addition to our family) and to me that seems quite feasible. I am already working with two very different children and the hardest part so far has been in figuring out their styles (and how they change from day to day). I have one linguistically oreintated child. She loves language, she loves talking, she loves reading, she loves being read to and sometimes she even enjoys listening. From the time she was a small baby she loved being read to and this was an easy way to teach her anything I wanted. It is still the case, though she is starting to want to be more involved in her learning activities (preferring writing and clicking the mouse on the computer) but she is still very interested in learning through books and being read to.

My son is a completely different story. He is now starting to show interest in being read to and has the patience to sit through a story but he would much rather be doing something. For him to learn his animals and animal sounds we sit on the floor with his barn and pick up one piece at a time. To learn colors we visit a store (produce department works best) and hold up objects and say their color. He is a very hands-on learner and I am finding that I do enjoy teaching that way. It certainly increases my creativity a few notches as I always need to figure out a way to physically demonstrate the lesson I am trying to teach. As he gets older I am sure this will be both more challenging and easier.

Yet I look at both my children and realize that they will benefit more from being at home. I am not saying they could not get a good education at a school, they would probably do fine. But I don't want to settle for fine. My daughter would most likely go unchallenged and quickly become bored and disillusioned with education (much like I did). We would need to supplement her at home anyway and we would just be adding work to her when we could accomplish far more at home in a shorter period of time. My son might find himself labeled with some acronym of the day because he doesn't learn as well the typical way taught in a classroom setting and he needs to move. I can already tell that with him I will be one of those moms who says read this book, go shoot 50 hoops, come back and write the report then jump on a trampoline. I read something similar in a book on homeschooling.

So we choose to homeschool and we grow together. We all learn to be more creative and sympathetic to one another. The lessons I teach will need to have both a physical and a reading based teaching method and both children will experience both. I believe this will only enhance each of their education while ensuring that I can meet the needs of each child. Who knows what our little one will add into the mix when it is her turn to join us in a more formal way. I think it is this individualized learning and education tailored to the child's interest, pace and ability that makes homeschooling more effective. But odds are if you are reading this blog I am preaching to the choir. Learn on!

Homeschoolers Top Typical Public School Students Thanks to Izzy for pointing out this
Common Sense #939: Homeschooling Headache piece on a recent study showing that homeschoolers tend to outperform public school students. A fact sheet can be found here.
Upcoming Study... Today I woke up with another one of those blinding post partum headaches so we will have a take it easy day here at the house. Hopefully it won't hurt as much as the last and I will be able to read (it is so unfair when it hurts to read to your children) to them. Today we will finish up our Trolley study and I was originally thinking of taking another ride on a different one in the area but we will see.

Yesterday we got books out of the library to start our Fall Harvest Study (child selected): we will learn about apples, squash, pumpkins, etc. We have already gone apple picking once but will likely go again. This time I will try to find a place they can see apple cider being made as a follow-up to How do you make apple cider lesson and perhaps a corn maze to go through.

I love homeschooling at this time of year because fall is my favorite season and I love being outside and sharing this season with them. There is so much fun to teach them about including fall leaves, apples, pumpkins, farms, and the change of season. We will also do some study on leaves and go for a walk through the forest and a long drive to see the color changes. I would love to camp but I am a bit to nervous to with a newborn.

Other upcoming study areas will be "October Fest" as Serona wants to have an "OctoberFest" party. And Spanish is on the list again as our daughter picked up a "Spanish in the Kitchen" workbook and tape at the library yesterday. And we have been listening to the Little House on the Prairie series on tape so I should figure out something to do in relation to that.

Well I've typed as much as my head can handle right now and my daughter is pleading with me (yes it is true) to do some "school stuff". Aaah the joy of young learners who crave knowledge. Who can fight that momentum?


September 25, 2003

Some Noteworthy blogs... Daryl Cobranchi over at Homeschool & Other Education Stuff does a great job keeping up with homeschool news in the media. Kimberly offers great commentary on education reform at Number 2 Pencil. Ma and Pa offer a refreshing theme in their new blog at Little House. I have added them to the blogroll so you can keep up with their news as well.

Trolley Lesson Plan... This is not a detailed lesson plan rather it is a combination of web resources I used to follow-up with my children after our first trolley ride today. The information crosses age groups, some providing more details than others. I basically wanted my children to have some information on the history of streetcars and trolley's (including some specific to their state) and be able to see pictures of a variety of them and then have a project they could do to help them remember. I think it could easily be developed into a full blown Streetcar Lesson Plan if you add a few of the primary sources listed on these pages. I figured I already did all the work I might as well put it together for you to use sometime if you want. I would recommend using some of this BEFORE riding the trolley (especially with older children) but I did not have that much foresight this time so we did it after (which is still better than not at all). I think a combination of before, riding the trolley, a trolley museum (if available) and then a follow-up might be better.

This is the basic definition and overview of a trolley/streetcar. If you are looking for a more detailed general history or for information about some specific trolley's try those sites. Some nice pictures and slideshows can be found at: The Seashore Trolley Museum (this site includes foreign streetcars as well) and Trolley Photos by Joe Lance. If coloring pictures are what you are looking for check out: Shoreline Trolley Museum and PBS Kids: Mr. Rogers.

Finally many states have their own trolley museums or local transportation museums, these can provide a wealth of specific local information along with general histories. If you happen to live in Minnesota you can check out The Minnesota Transportation Museum and the Minnesota Historical Society. The Historical Society site also has a nice listing of primary and secondary sources for further research. I especially enjoy their Visual Database which has a large variety of photos and descriptions.

Well I hope you enjoy the information as much as we did. Be sure to include a real trolley ride if you can, our kids really enjoyed it. Also if anyone finds any good sound files online please let me know so I can add them here.

Current news... Read up on the current RIAA debate, on the National Do Not Call Registry and recent breastfeeding news over at CyberEcology.
Kindergarten Competencies... Joanne over at the Happy Homeschooler has an interesting piece on Ohio Kindergarten competencies versus her own. We would fall somewhere in between but I think it is a great read.

Archives Working... Blogger fixed the problems and our archives are working again! Thanks for your patience and happy reading.

This Morning... Today we have had a nutritious breakfast of oatmeal, apples and an english muffin with toast and orange juice. The kids have had some reading time and I had my quiet time. I was able to journal some for me and then some in my oldest's journal. The kids are in their imaginary world playing together and yet independently and the baby is napping. I was reading news headlines while finishing breakfast and now it is off to clean and start the day.

Today we are headed on a field trip to ride a trolley and then have a picnic lunch at a park. The weather is nice (though it is definitely fall here) and everyone is looking forward to it. Then we will stop at the library on the way home and pick up some books and make some photocopies and let the kids have some playtime there. We also may make a run to the cooperative to pick up the few specialty items that we could not get through our online grocer.

Anyway today will be a day on the go so I won't be around much. I will let you know how it went later tonight.

A Thank You is Deserved... I just want to publicly thank my wonderful husband and best friend Serona. He is truly a wonderful man and makes sacrifices every day for me and our family. I truly appreciate his willingness to work to provide for our family. He gives up so much each day when he gets himself up and out of the house and spends so much time so far away from us in order to take care of us. His willingness to work so hard gives me the privilege of staying at home with our three kids and offers me the opportunity to homeschool them. It truly is a blessing and a privilege to be able to spend my days with my children and to be a part of all of their lives. It is a blessing that I am thankful for and don't take for granted. I truly appreciate all his work and the sacrifices he makes of himself, his time and everything else in order to support and love us.

The children and I miss him so much during the day and that has only become more apparent to all of us after our wonderful three week retreat when he was here with us every day. Sure there are moments when I think I am at the end of my rope with the kids - but then I think about him at work and how much he misses spending time with us and realize how blessed I am. There is no place I would rather be that at home with my kids. I just wish we could figure out a way for us all to be home together and for him to not have to work. Perhaps someday one of us will right that bestselling book and we can just be writers together, sell our house, buy an RV and hit the road writing and homeschooling from wherever we feel at the time. Until then I just say a big THANK YOU to Serona.


September 24, 2003

I Can Do Anything for 15 Minutes... This philosophy and approach to life has helped me organize and balance my life (when I have the discipline to follow through). I owe this to the FLY Lady who taught met his approach in household management and other aspects of my life. My timer has become my best friend in many ways as it helps motivate and keep me on track even through the worst tasks and keep me limited in the things I love (like blogging and reading) that can steal my time.

Just a few minutes ago I was feeling very depressed about things here in the house, everything seemed a mess and I started to slip into feeling overwhelmed and that it was too big of a task to take on. The kids were fussy and I didn't know where to begin. I got the older two into their beds for naps and quiet time, put the baby in the sling, set my timer and headed into my kitchen (my least favorite to clean and the heart of our house). I committed to only working until the timer was done no matter how bad it looked. Well I finished cleaning it BEFORE the timer went off and had 6 minutes to work in my living room. I got the living room mostly picked up (atleast it has the appearance of cleanliness) and I feel so much better about the house, myself and life in general. Now I am taking 15 minutes to nurse the baby and have my computer time (I am almost always double tasking) and then I will put her back in the sling and spend 15 minutes tackling our clean laundry (I have 5 baskets to fold and put away) which of course will take more than 15 minutes but atleast I can make some progress. Hopefully everyone will be asleep then and I can take 15 minutes of quiet time for myself.

I just thought I would share this because I think it can apply to homeschooling families and is therefore appropriate on a homeschool blog. Often when we homeschool we allow other things to slip and can't figure out how to find balance. Well a timer and life in 15 minute increments can help. I even find that my children love the timer and will help more if I set it and challenge them to beat the timer. They also see a definite end which is much better to them than "we will clean the house now" which can sound like forever (and sometimes could take that long if it was pristine clean - which mine will never be) to a small child.

I have also found when the kids aren't in the mood to do school work than I can suggest we just do 15 minutes worth and that usually ends up getting them in the mood and we spend much more time than that. Anyway the 15 minute approach does wonders for motivating people in this house and you might be amazed at how much you can accomplish in just 15 minutes and how much time you really do spend on the computer. LOL. My homeschooling blog does take up some of my time but I think it is important for my kids and for our family and anyone else who may read it. Besides this post only took me 10 minutes to write and I had to be sitting down nursing anyway. Better head off now though.

Archive Problem... Again I apologize for the problem with my archives. This appears to be a "" problem and is affecting several of their sites. I apologize for the inconvenience.

Morning Lessons... This morning the kids worked on several things. They each did a file folder game: our daughter worked on counting money matching the coins to the corresponding number, and our son worked on pattern matching found in this butterfly file folder game. Then they worked on puzzles for awhile. Our daughter wrote a thank you card to a friend and practiced her handwriting skills and our son worked on his numbers on a leap pad while I nursed the baby.

We had a bible study lesson with a verse memorization. Today we worked on Proverbs 15:1 "A soft answer turns away wrath" our daughter memorized it and we read a story that showed this principle in practice. Then we talked about the story, the verse and how she can apply it in her life. She repeated the verse several times and we talked about it until it became apparent that she understood what she was memorizing.

Then the kids picked up a Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme Book and asked to work on their rhymes. We practiced reciting several rhymes (the two year old was able to repeat and recite some while the four year old worked on her memorization and pronunciation) including:

Itsy Bitsy Spider
There Was an Old Woman
Jack Sprat
Sing a Song of Sixpence
Old MacDonald
Pease Porridge Hot
One, Two Buckle my Shoe
little Miss Muffet
Little Miss Tucket
Little Bo-Peep
Rain, Rain Go Away
Old King Cole
Here We Go Around the Mulberry Bush
The Purple Cow
Mary Had a Little Lamb
Humpty Dumpty
The Cat and the Fiddle

After our nursery rhyme work than we made lunch and it will soon be naptime (which today for me is clean the house time) and then we will make a library run this afternoon after our groceries are delivered (I love online grocers!) and put away. Hope you are having a great day.


September 23, 2003

What Do Vegans Eat? In case you were curious what we eat over here I thought I would post our meal plan for the next two weeks or so (leftovers usually make it go further). This is not the order we will eat it. I just plan two weeks and pick that day what I want to make.

Sloppy Joes
Bowties with Tempeh and Mushrooms
Miso Soup with Tofu and Baby Spinach
Veggie Dogs, French Fries and Edamame
Tuscany Style Pasta with Garbanzo Beans
Red Lentil Fettucini
Cuban Black Beans
barbecued Tempeh with Sweet Peppers
Tempeh, Tomato and Sauerkraut Grillers
Black Bean Sweet Potato Enchiladas
Stuffed Winter Squash
Chili and Cornbread
Hummus, Pita, Capers, Olives with Roasted Tomatoes
Baked Seitan with Potatoes

Well there you have our meals and now you know what one vegan family eats.

Breast is Best... Check out my post on why Breast is Still Best for infants (despite the recent research of increased chemicals in breastmilk) over at CyberEcology.

Some highlights from today... Today we rode bikes, collected more fall objects, played hopscotch (the course was drawn by our 4 year old), played with the dog (our faithful Australian Shepherd), traveled to a variety of imaginary worlds, and pretended to be neighbors, kings and queens, shoppers, dogs, and something like a dungeon keeper (not real sure where that one came from). This was all before 10am.

The rest of the day was spent cleaning the house and playing while we cleaned. The kids are very good at incorporating their play into their chores. Our daughter's favorite is the obvious Cinderella link (she loves princesses) and lately they have been quoting lines from the court jester as well (daddy let them watch this movie) "Why walk when you can leap" and then they leap around the house while they clean.

We of course had storytime throughout the day. A few we read today were:

The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle
The Mouse, the very ripe strawberry and the hungry bear by Don and Audrey Wood
Aslan - adapted from the Chronicles of Narnia
Cinderella and the Ugly Stepsisters

They had some computer free time today as well and they played Reader Rabbit together for a long time. They also played with our big wooden busy box for a long time, playing tic tac toe together and trying to organize the balls into colors. We had care for little sister time and some free art time with our easel and some scissors and paper.

They played lego's, yahtzee (toy story version), and a memory match game all together with me. We sang songs and our daughter put on a performance of Irish step dancing which nicely doubled as her practice time. We organized some of our homeschool supplies and went back outside to play more.

We had baked apples for dessert and apples for a snack this morning. We kept up with our apple theme for the week and sang "Two Little Apples" . That seems to be all I can recall at the moment. It was a nice laid back catch up day. It was nice to let the kids choose what they wanted to do almost all day long.

I hope by tomorrow that will have figured out their archive problem and the site will be working again. I apologize for anyone trying to use my archives (Blogger assures me they are working on it).

Technical Difficulties... I am sorry to inform you that we are experiencing technical difficulties with our archive pages. I am working on the problem and hope to have them up and running soon. Thanks for your patience.

Morning Musings on Routines... We are trying to establish routines here in our household which I must admit is hard for a person like me (I'm not a huge fan of schedules) but I'm atleast admitting now that it would help us all. I am trying to get everyone up, dressed, fed and ready for the day (chores, day preparation, etc)by 8am. Then we have quiet time and then large muscle activity (usually running around or riding around the yard) and then we have some formal lesson time, free time, lunchtime, chore time, nap/quiet time and our afternoons vary based on what we may have scheduled (field trip, co-op, various classes, errands). Then dinner prep and another routine for the evening which concludes with laying out the next days clothes, packing my bag for the day and a quick general pickup of the house.

Why you might ask am I writing about this on a homeschooling sight? Two reasons. First, without routines (of some sort), organization and cleanliness (I still have three under 5) and some level of structure ours days tend to be more chaotic and unhappy. We seem to always be playing catch up or unable to focus on what we want as we deal with the ever present "tyranny of the urgent". However, when the house is picked up and we know what to expect and when and we know there is a time for everything than we are more free to do what we want. It's a concept I never really understood until I experienced it - but for our family atleast we are truly happier when things run more smoothly and they run more smooth when I plan better (and follow through) than when I just kind of go with the flow (my personality).

The second reason is because I am "schooling" them during this time. They are learning how to help a family and household and school function. They are learning invaluable life lessons that they will use throughout their lives to help them and perhaps someday their families be more productive and happy people. They are disciplining and training themselves to do the things that need to be done even when they may not want to and hopefully some of the things will just become second nature to them so they don't seem like a big deal (like housework always did to me). We all have routines even if we don't call them that, sometimes we don't like to think of them as routines though. I am trying to change our bad habits (laziness, procrastination, half-stepping and denial) into more positive habits through the use of routines.

Also besides the inherent lessons found in establishing and carrying out routines there are all the lessons one learns through housework, the value of quiet time and mealtimes together. I also find my kids are often more teachable in these moments and lessons over baking cookies stick in better than all the math sheets we do. Shopping at the grocery store has done more for color recognition than flash cards and playing red light green light has taught them to mind me better. So I try to remind myself of these benefits as I struggle with finding a balance in my life.


September 22, 2003

Lessons in Everyday Life... Today did not go at all how I had planned it to. Today was supposed to be Spanish lessons in our cooperative. However the scheduled teacher's son was sick and we called the day's class off instead. Our daughter was once again sad (we had to miss last Friday's co-op pottery class because I had a blinding headache) to miss her class. She really enjoys the cooperatives. She enjoys playing and learning with all the kids and is developing relationships with all the members of the families. She also seems to really enjoy her lessons and is particularly excited to learn Spanish. So I knew we needed to do something outside of our house.

We started the morning with some outdoor playtime. This time was spent mostly bike riding and swinging in the hammock. They also walked around our yard and a neighbor's collecting fall items (leaves, acorns, pinecones, etc) and placed them in a basket to use at a later date for a fall project. We played imaginary games and I listened to their creative play and participated in various supporting roles.

Then it was off to run some errands - not typically my idea of fun with three little ones in tow - but it went better than I expected, we managed to learn and have fun along the way. In the car we finished listening to Little House on the Prairie on tape (for the second time) and then we sang some songs together from the Wee Sing Bible Songs and talked about various bible stories. Lately we have been talking about the story of David and Goliath quite a bit.

This past weekend we had a challenging discussion about the Story of David and Goliath, Star Wars and inappropriate play. Our four year old daughter started pretending to play with guns (she was building one out of lego's" and then pretended to "kill" her brother and was saying some not so nice things to him. I went to help alleviate the situation, offer appropriate discipline and help to the younger child. What came next I was not fully prepared for. I started to talk about how it is inappropriate to hurt one another and how we need to be kind to one another. I was thrown my first fast ball with "But people in Star Wars teach me that it is okay - they use guns and kill people" I managed to foul tip that ball with a late swing about the difference between reality and fantasy and how sometimes people do things that are not good (both in reality and in fantasy or pretend).

Getting ready to launch into a discussion about why "killing" play is unacceptable I got thrown a curve that I was completely surprised by (I was expecting another fast ball) but in the bible people kill one another. I know this is not an unusual connection for children to make (but I was surprised by my four year old) and I was in some ways prepared for it. I talked a bit about sin and how that can lead to people making poor choices that go against God's will. Then she threw a knuckleball that just took me off guard. Well what about David? Was he wrong? Didn't God help him kill Goliath? Was he going against God's will. I just thought to myself "Why do I find myself answering this question for a four year old? How did she learn to make those connections and realize the inconsistencies so quickly. The next thought was "I am in TROUBLE when she is a teenager" and the last thought was "HELP". So I called in Serona and we dealt with the issue together. I'm not sure she was satisfied with the answer or completely understood it but I think we were able to explain to her some of the concepts of sin, free will, fantasy and reality, acceptable and unacceptable play, and how play can still hurt people's feelings. They continued to play (this time building a castle) and we moved on but I thought how much innocence is gone now? Why do we have these talks with our children so young? It made me a little bit sad.

Back to today - we ran our errands and found the teachable moments within the day. Counting, naming and describing items we saw in the store. Helping pick out clothes for their baby sister and working on curbing whining, pestering and other challenging behaviors often seen in stores with children. We ran our errands, had a picnic lunch in the backseat of the van (not the healthiest I admit) and then headed home for naps. During nap time the phone repairman came to work on our phones and was here for awhile. Then daddy came home early and the kids got to run outside and play with him.

They had special time with dad tonight as I had to head out to a LLL meeting (with the baby of course) and then snuck into a bookstore for about a half hour for some me time. All in all it was a good day - though it was often chaotic and overwhelming. It is good to have days like this to remind you that your kids can still learn no matter what you do and often the most meaningful conversations happen on the floor over lego's or in the car headed between stores and how you handle those teachable moments will affect them and you for the rest of your lives.


September 21, 2003

How do you make apple cider? Tonight at dinner we had another famous "Daddy, how do you..." questions. These questions spur great lessons in our house and are some of my favorite teachable moments. Some of you may remember the "Daddy how do you make soy milk?" question or the "Daddy what is that (dry ice)" question. Well today it was "Daddy how do you make apple cider?"

Some of you may recall that we went apple picking yesterday and had a grand time. Well today we had special apple pie oatmeal (recipe: oatmeal, apples and raisins coated in apple pie mix and a bit of sugar) and apple cider for dinner. Thus our daughter's ever creative juices started flowing. She asked and we of course started to give answers off the cuff until I got stuck trying to explain the difference between apple juice and apple cider and how they were made.

Serona points to our computer and says "Look it up in the answer box" and I laughed but realized that really was a good way to explain our computer and the way we generally use it. So I did a google search on how to make apple cider. The first site I went to was way to technical for my four and two year old. I realized they really did not need to know about "pommage" and the best temperature for fermentation. I stopped reading aloud and then surfed over to a great site for kids.

The Cider Mill has some great pictures and very brief explanation of the process. My four year old loved it and she could control the mouse enough to walk herself through the process a few times after we had done it together. She then showed her brother how it worked and explained it to him as she navigated through the process of making apple cider. I was so proud of her and glad that we went that extra step in really finding the answers to her questions.

Don't get me wrong we do not ALWAYS get this detailed in answering her endless four year old questions but I would say we do it more often than not. I have decided to grab hold of those teachable moments because those are the ones they remember - when they asked the question and you helped them find the best answer. My kids actually remember what sublimation is and can explain how you make soy milk and apple cider (well the older one can atleast) and it is because we took just a few minutes more and went to the "answer box" to find more specifics at their level. I hope to continue doing this throughout their lives and eventually to teach them to do the same for themselves


September 20, 2003

Mom's Reading for August and September... Ever curious what I am reading? Here is the rundown for the past two month's what I have read and what I am currently reading.

Books completed:

A Woman After God's Own Heart by Elizabeth George
Birth Book by William and Martha Sears
Shatterpoint by Matthew Stover
Evenings at Five by Gail Goodwin
No Spin Zone by Bill O'Reilly
So You're thinking about homeschooling by Lisa Whelchel

Book currently in progress:

LBJ: Master of the Senate by Robert Caro
Homefires by Donald Katz
Yawn: bedtime Reading for Insomniacs by Ellen Sue Stern
Creative Correction by Lisa Whelchel
Postnatal Exercise Book by Margie Polden
20 Teachable Virtues by Barbara C Unell and Jerry Wyckoff
Not So Big Solutions for Your Home by Susanka

And of course the tons of children's books that I read in a day. List for September coming soon.

The value of parenthood...
"If you are a parent, recognize that it is the most important calling and rewarding challenge you have. What you can do every day, what you say and how you act, will do more to shape the future of America that any other factor."
-Marion Wright Edelman
Apple Picking on the Farm... We decided to go apple picking and we just started driving towards a popular orchard. We hit amazing traffic and couldn't figure out why, then we realized that the Renaissance Festival is going on in town. We sat in it for awhile and tried an alternate route (which everyone else thought of as well) and then just headed in the opposite direction and looked for one. We stopped at an apple house and got a snack of cider and apples and continued on in search of an apple orchard.

God is good, just as I was reaching my breaking point of time in the car (which I do love with my family - but it was a beautiful day and I wanted to be outside) we came upon a small orchard we had not known was where we were (because we were on a detour from a road we didn't know in the first place). But it ended up being perfect. It was actually a working farm and orchard that my home school group recently recommended and planned a field trip to that I could not attend.

There were chickens freely roaming and the kids got to hold baby chickens and feed a cow and goats. They really enjoyed their time with the animals and riding around the farm in a wagon. After thoroughly washing their hands we were off for apple picking. We picked Suite 16 (the kids sat and stood on dad's shoulders while the baby rode on the sling of course) and bought some honeycrisp and then picked out several pumpkins and a bunch of squash and of course some cider. We loaded it all into the van and headed home after a great family day (can't wait to get my pictures developed).

It was fun for everyone and I enjoyed having both the farm and the orchard experience in such a hands on way. We will do some follow-up this week on farm life and on apples and the fall season. Well I am off to make an apple crisp and oh yeah dinner as well (boca, squash and french fries).

Irish Step Dancing... Today we had our Irish step dancing lesson and our daughter was so excited. She really seems to enjoy the classes and is already beginning to do some simple steps that she wants to practice and demonstrate for us all. Serona took her to her class and I kept the older two busy at a park and grocery store.

I had a great time with our two year old - it was nice to have some special us time as the baby was asleep in the sling. We walked around the produce aisle of the grocery store and he pointed to things and I told him what they were or he told me the ones he knew. We talked about colors of different objects and he told me whether he liked them or not (garlic, onions and peppers were the big losers in this area). We actually had a conversation and it was amazing to me how much he talked when he was alone. It was wonderful and I truly enjoyed it.

We picked up a snack of dried cherries, garlic sesame sticks, carbonated lemon water and chocolate soy milk. We headed over to the nearest picnic bench and shared our snack. Then we ran around a big open field and smelled the flowers and watched the butterflies. He told me a story "The pig climbed up the tree, he fell down, he took a nap, the end" but it was cute to hear his story. He also sang Happy Birthday to a butterfly. We had fun.

Serona said he had a proud daddy moment and loved watching her dance. She enjoys it and seems to be picking up the steps so far. When she left class and saw me she was so excited she ran up to me telling me "she did it" with the biggest grin on her face. It was priceless.


September 19, 2003

Prodromal labor again... No not me this time, not possible yet! But I have met two other women this week who have also suffered from this and my sympathy goes out to all of you who are suffering from it. Hang in there it will end and you will be your normal self again! Honest, I can testify to that as can my family. We are four weeks postpartum here and doing much better thanks for asking!

For those of you in the thick of it - try to sleep, take the sleeping pill without guilt if you need to (I, who barely am willing to take a tylenol when pregnant, had to take it for over three weeks daily!), consider the "therapeutic rest" if it is offered to you (my midwives decided it probably wouldn't help in my case), and go easy on yourself. You are not crazy, you are not alone and you will get better. Hopefully your active labor will go as quickly as mine did (3 hours from the first contraction to holding my baby) and you can move into it soon.

The other thing that really helped me was when I was told the baby was posterior then I had something I could do to help. We lived on a birth ball and hands and knees for over a week. Prodromal labor can often be caused by a posterior baby. The contractions are happening but they are not fully productive because the baby is not in the right position and things can start and then stall again. Talk to your midwife and see if this could be your situation or just be sure to spend twenty minutes a day on your hands and knees (do this three times a day) and sit on a birth ball instead of a soft couch. Read about my experience here. Remember I AM NOT A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL, this is my experience only and based on my midwife, research and things I found helpful.

The other most useful thing I can say is try hard to distract yourself from the contractions. Try to find something you can do that can take your mind off them. When you are in need of going to the hospital or calling your midwife you will know. So try to relax and not think about it. Believe me I know you are saying "Yeah right whatever" I felt the same way and only out of sheer desperation and frustration with all the starts and stops I had was I able to try this and I found it did help some when I could maintain it for an hour or so. But they always came back again and it was harder to do than it is to say to do it. But it was helpful if you are the kind of person who excels at mind over matter (I am not) so I felt I should share it.

Hang in there and know that others have been there before you and can sympathize with you. The baby will come when s/he is ready even if that is way after you are ready. If all else fails and you have your midwife's blessing you could consider the castor oil induction - it worked for us.

Best Laid Plans Go Astray... Well so much for my planning. We ended up changing the whole plan and having a very different day. We never got moving that fast this morning and by the time we were done with outdoor playtime the baby was sleeping again and we wouldn't have enough time for errands so I decided to do impromptu school stuff (we are not "officially starting kindergarten until october 6th).

We went down to the basement and I set the kids each up with a puzzle while I got things organized. On one of my trips upstairs I noticed that the floor had muddy foot and pawprints all over it so I decided to mop it up quickly. Well what should have taken five minutes turned into a fiasco. I accidently bumped the bucket and water spilled everywhere. While I was frustrated and struggling to clean it up the kids are yelling from downstairs that they need me. I tell them to wait because I am busy and they come up to tell me there is a flood downstairs and it is raining from the ceiling! _Sigh_ what a way to discover that there is a leak in your ceiling. So I spend the next half hour or so cleaning up the mess.

By then the kids had their fill of puzzles and I had only limited time before the youngest woke up. My oldest wanting to practice with her sewing cards and I worked with our two year old on his shapes - he is tracing big wooden shapes and telling me what shape they are. My daughter got bored and did another puzzle and felt board kit on a lifecycle of a butterfly (follow-up from yesterday's science lesson).

Then we all did a felt board kit together "Making a Rainbow" a cute poem about different colored fruit and what they make when you stir them in a pot. The kids took turns adding the right items to the pot and talking about the colors. They actually both enjoyed it (though it probably too old for one and too young for the other) and they played well together and took turns nicely. I nursed the baby through this activity.

Then they each did a craft with cutting and gluing felt and scraps of paper and stick on foam letters. They both had a good time and I was able to supervise but hold the baby. Our son played with his leap imagination desk and worked on his numbers and my daughter cleaned up. I asked what else they wanted to do and of course they answered with read. So we read and then made lunch and laid down for naps (a bit early so we could be ready for our clay coop class).

I awoke when my two year old came in and realized we were going nowhere. I had a blinding headache (the kind that affects your vision and thought) and realized it was unsafe for me to drive and probably for me to even leave the house with the kids. I called last minute to cancel (and felt terrible about it) and then had to explain to our daughter why she couldn't go today (she was sad and disappointed) and then why I could not function the rest of the day and her and her brother would take turns picking movies so I could sleep with the baby until the headache went away.

The kids must have realized I was serious and could sense my pain and were on their best behavior. They complied and laid together on our futon and watched movies (taking turns picking the video) until I could function again. Meanwhile I took tylenol, drank water and laid down with the baby until I felt like I could stand up again. Getting up only to change the video when the last one ended.

The tylenol finally kicked in and I was able to get up and function. The kids wanted me to read them books so we all got in our rocking chairs (they each have a small one on either side of my glider) and I held the baby and tried reading. It actually hurt, I could not believe it hurt to read to my kids! But I kept going for a few stories as I felt so bad about making them watch movies all afternoon. I read until their father came home and took over.

So not a banner day here - but we did get some stuff done and you might as well know the bad with the good. I am feeling a bit better now, I am just back to the dull headache I have had for the past two weeks.

I probably won't blog much this weekend as we have several things going on (Irish step dancing lessons, apple picking and an apple festival to name a few). Hope you have a good weekend yourself.


One tired momma... This morning I am exhausted - I stayed up a bit too late last night and then of course we had a nursing marathon throughout the night. That is okay though I am still getting more sleep than I was when I was pregnant. People didn't believe me that life with a newborn would be more restful for me than pregnancy - well it is so far, even on the long nights! Atleast I don't have to get up for any reason than to change her (I was getting up all the time to go to the bathroom) and I actually don't have insomnia, I am tired and want to and can sleep!

What kept me up late last night was writing, blogging and reading other new and interesting blogs. Normally that would be fine, but then our baby had a restless night (she suffers from mild reflux) and the combination just got to me. I am trying to wake up and would use coffee to help stimulate me but it gives me terrible headaches and I am still suffering from a major hormonal post-partum headache so I shouldn't intensify it at all.

So I may be short on blogging today. Our plan is to let mommy rest a little longer, and then run some errands, have lunch and a nap and then head to our homeschool coop to continue working on our clay pots.


September 18, 2003

Butterflies in the rain... Today was our first science class at the local nature preserve. We had a good time though I must admit it was a bit chaotic. There were about 25 kids there for the program (age range 4-11) plus their younger siblings and parents. We had two naturalists who did a great job. First they asked the kids questions about insects and butterflies to see what they knew. As you can imagine the knowledge varied as the age range was so wide. The naturalists drew a picture of a butterfly as she discussed all the different parts of its body. Then the kids all went outside with big nets and tried to catch some butterflies. Unfortunately it had rained pretty hard today and was still cold and drizzly - so there were not many butterflies flying around. Which was too bad as this past week many painted lady butterflies hatched in the area so we were hopeful to see some.

The naturalist and one of the older children each caught a butterfly and the children caught a few other bugs we put in little plastic magnifying cases so the kids could look at all the bugs. They really had a good time being outside and walking around on the trails even with the bad weather and not being able to catch many butterflies, everyone was a good sport about it. Then we went back inside and the kids took turns looking at the butterflies in the terranium, the bugs in the magnifying cases and different part of a butterfly that were set up under the microscope.

Finally there was a nice slide show presentation on butterflies, their life cycle, habitats and the different kinds of butterflies and other interesting information. The kids enjoyed it and got involved in the presentation. The naturalists ended the day with a teaser for our next class on Native Americans and handed out homework for them to complete.

All in all it was a good time and my kids did better than I expected, the baby was in the sling and content the entire time, My son actually wanted to just hold my hand and be by my side most of the time. He loved watching the butterflies in the terranium and spent quite a bit of time building a tower of bugs out of the little plastic magnifying cases. My daughter loved it and had several of her friends there with her and made several new ones. She was disappointed that she didn't catch anything - but overall I think she was just content to be in a nature preserve with other children.

Then we left the class and sat in rush hour traffic while listening to Little House on the Prairie on tape. Our family really enjoys books on tape and both kids seem to really enjoy this story. We will likely finish it up tomorrow when we head home from our homeschool coop (again in rush hour traffic) so we will be looking for another story. Feel free to let me know any suggestions.

A trip to the bookstore... As their treat for cleaning up the yard in record time each child got to pick out one of the small 3.50 storybooks (which with our 20% homeschool discount and the buy three get one free special going on were even cheaper) so much better than candy in my mind and their too even!

My son picked out a Thomas the train book and my daughter picked out a book about a flower girl at a wedding. I picked up a book on dinosaurs for them and Baby Catcher by Peggy Vincent as a thank you for my midwife. Great read if you haven't read it before.

Then we headed over to another store to pick up a breast pump for the very rare time when I leave my child alone with dad for a whole hour - but he needs to have milk on hand just in case she needs it. I have tried the hand expression technique and though I can do it in a pinch I do find the pumps to be more time effective for my needs (I have a cheap 40 one) and use on occasion.

Now we are trying to get naps (realistically lay in bed time) done early so we can head off to our science class in two hours. Thought I would drop in a note during that time.

Morning work... This morning we started at 6:30a.m. and it has been productive even if it takes longer. I was actually able to get a good quiet time, I am reading and journaling about the book of Hebrews now. The kids were awake but had to stay in their beds and red while I had my quiet time. Then it was up for breakfast, the ever exciting oatmeal (which they actually love) and then cleaning up the house. Then out in the yard for bike riding for about a half hour. Then yard pickup with a timer (if they beat the timer they get a treat - they did) and now inside to get ready to go out. First we made sure the house was picked up - again trying to beat a timer. Then I got 10 minutes of computer time (including now) while they read quietly in their rocking chairs. We are headed off to the store now and then to science class this afternoon at a nature preserve.

Morning work... This morning we started at 6:30a.m. and it has been productive even if it takes longer. I was actually able to get a good quiet time, I am reading and journaling about the book of Hebrews now. The kids were awake but had to stay in their beds and red while I had my quiet time. Then it was up for breakfast, the ever exciting oatmeal (which they actually love) and then cleaning up the house. Then out in the yard for bike riding for about a half hour. Then yard pickup with a timer (if they beat the timer they get a treat - they did) and now inside to get ready to go out. First we made sure the house was picked up - again trying to beat a timer. Then I got 10 minutes of computer time (including now) while they read quietly in their rocking chairs. We are headed off to the store now and then to science class this afternoon at a nature preserve.


September 17, 2003

What about socialization... I found a great quote in Lisa Whelchel's book about this to. In response to that inevitable question I like Mary Beth Nelson's response. "We did tend to oversocialize when we first started homeschooling, but I think we have it under control now." This homeschooler who quoted Nelson goes on to say:

We spend so much time on the go between co-op classes, play rehearsals, volleyball practice, and other activities that I'm tempted to call what we do "minivan-schooling." The only problem with socialization is staying home enough to get the schooling done."

We are just starting out and I already feel that way. Our problem is not finding opportunities for our children but paring down to the best options and having to say no to other good options so that we have time at home.

On the importance of reading... I have been reading Lisa Whelchel's book So You're Thinking About Homeschooling I am enjoying the book it is a quick read and offers a variety of pictures of homeschooling.

I was struck by a great quote in the book where one of the families (a father who is homeschooling his kids) quoted Thomas Carlyle, a British historian. This is a quote to put on the door of the home library I one day dream of having:

"What we become depends on what we read after all the professors have finished with us. The greatest university of all is the collection of books."

I love books and my whole family seems to love books. Our neighbors were clearing out their basement and gave us a bag full of old children's books today (their kids are in their 40's now) and it was a treat! I am headed to the library tonight for my homeschool meeting and will surely pick up more.

Read on fellow friends, read on.

Thanks to Tammy... Tammy thanks for the link and for reading our site. Everyone check out Tammy's homeschool blog. She has alot to say and I enjoy reading it.


September 16, 2003

Another reason to homeschool... Serona and I have had many discussions about how cultural diversity and multicultaralism seems to be overtaking our public schools. Glad to know we are not the only ones noticing this and demanding a change. Fox news reports U.S. Students Need Better Civics Education, Experts Say and I believe it is true. We are replacing our lessons in civics and history with a focus on multicularalism and tolerance and diversity. Don't get me wrong I believe these are important things for students to be taught, but they are not the only things that need to be taught. Children need to be raised to be proud of being an American and with a solid understanding of what our country was founded on and the underlying values inherent in democracy if we intend to keep a democracy in this country.

From the article:
Last month, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation released a book titled, "Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong?," which lambasted the way social studies are taught in America's schools.

The volume criticizes university professors who steer future teachers in too liberal a direction. It attacks weak civics curricula and a misplaced focus on multiculturalism, and expresses particular indignation about the way the Sept. 11 attacks were handled by educators.

At the very time we most need our citizens and future citizens to learn what it means to be American and why America is worth defending ... the part of the school curriculum on which we must rely for help has turned into a hindrance. It’s not getting the job done. It’s wrongheaded. It may even be making matters worse," reads the book's introduction, written by Chester E. Finn, Jr., president of the Fordham Foundation.

This is just another reason we are beginning our children's formal education here at home so they can get the basics before the basics get diluted by the "social causes and issues" of the day. Our children will learn about diversity but they will also learn about civics, democracy and what it means to be a good citizen.


September 15, 2003

The importance of physical play... Sometimes in my excitement for the cerebral aspects of our lives I forget to mention and focus on the other aspects of it - like play time and physical achievements. Today I was really struck by the fact that I have not mentioned that both of our older children learned how to ride a bike this summer. Our son has finally mastered his tricycle by himself and can ride alone (with supervision of course) in the street and is all over our yard. Our daughter is completely self sufficient on a two wheeler already! I really was surprised, she is only 4 years old (as of July) and she does it all alone now (from putting the helmet on, to starting, stopping, turning and steering).

Today was our first big biking adventure. The children both were able to ride their bicycles to the park along our neighborhood streets with us right by their sides. Somehow that made them seem so much older to me, especially watching my daughter on a two wheeler. I think in many ways I was not ready to take the training wheels off her bicycle - but that is why she has two parents. Her father worked hard with her and it really paid off. She is so proud of herself and well she should be. She was determined and she was able to learn and now it is a skill she will always have.

Monday Cooperative : Fall Leaves... In today's cooperative class the kids learned about fall leaves. The teacher read a book about fall leaves and how leaves change color. The children also had two worksheets related to the book she read, one focused on colors and reading comprehension, the other was about words that rhymed in the story. There was also a craft, each child made a fall leaf picture frame with magnets on the back to be used on the fridge. They came out cute and everyone enjoyed themselves. The rest of the time was free play time. This group of kids really seems to enjoy dress up and that tends to be their primary group play.

Last week at this coop, a different teacher taught the kids their colors in Spanish. While this was a review - it had been awhile and it took some time to remember the colors. The children then all played candyland in Spanish. At snack time they had to speak in Spanish (please, thank you, the colors of the snack they wanted). They are also beginning to work on the concept of asking for a translation in Spanish but using the proper Spanish terminology.

The feel of each of our cooperatives is different but I do enjoy them both. One is more formal in teaching and works on more advanced concepts - the other is more playful and unschoolish in its approach. But they are learning at both and enjoying their time there and the relationships they are developing: with their peers, siblings, peers siblings and the mothers. Here is to a good year.


September 13, 2003

For the love of reading... Now as many of you know I am a big proponent of reading to your children and the value of reading in general. These past few weeks have really helped me realize just how much we all read in our family, it is a passion for all of us. Today was actually one of those days where I wonder to myself if it is possible to read to your children TOO much. Of course I realistically do not believe that to be possible - but today's reading list makes me question it sometimes. Now granted all of the books were different lengths and a few were short but several were long for a children's storybook. Here is our reading list for Saturday September 13, 2003:

ABC by Dr Suess
Anansi and the Moss Covered Rock by Eric A. Kimmel
Aslan adapted from CS Lewis Chronicles of Narnia
Butterfly Kisses by Bob and Brooke Carlisle
Corduroy by Don Freeman (translation Spanish)
Curious George's Dream by HA Rey
The Grouchy LadyBug by Eric Carle
Hop on Pop by Dr Suess
I Am Not Going To Get Up Today by Dr Suess
If You Give a Pig a Pancake by Laura Numeroff
Jamberry by Bruce Degen
Jesse Bear What Will You Wear by Nancy White Carlstrom
Marvin K Mooney Will You Please Go Now by Dr Suess
Playing Poohsticks by AA Milne
Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear? by Bill Marin Jr
Praise You God by tyndale house
Touch and Feel Baby Animals by Dk Publishing

We also listened to Little House on the Prairie on cassete (a few chapters) and grandma read them a few books this morning. We skipped our usual chapter from Chronicles of Narnia (we are now on the Silver Chair) as I was a bit read out tonight as you can guess why as it was I who read them all those books listed (most over the last two hours)!

Anyway I thought you might be interested.


September 12, 2003

First Day at Homeschool Coop...Several families from our homeschool support group decided to start a cooperative and asked our family to join. I was very excited at the possibility as I really like the parents involved and the children all seem to get along well. We have five families: 3 six year olds, 3 four year olds, 3 two year olds, 2 one year olds and soon we will add three infants (including our newborn). It is a great group of kids and I am glad to see the age diversity and the relationships that are beginning to develop. Already on our first day there was a sense of cooperation between parents as mothers comforted and cared for the children of the other mothers (even when their own mothers were nearby). As I rubbed the back of an injured boy another mother sprinkled "fairy dust" on him to help him feel better while his own mother was outside helping watch the other children. I picked up and comforted a one year old who was knocked down accidentally by a two year old, by the time we reached mom she was fine. My baby was passed from loving arms to loving arms and my four year old had her endless questions answered by some other mothers. It was refreshing and I think a good start to what I hope will be a great experience.

Today we worked on pottery. The teacher (a fellow homeschooling mother) read from a book on clay pottery and children and showed them pictures and discussed what we would be doing. Then they took pieces of clay and sat around the kitchen table and formed "pinch pots" and some made coasters while others started on another type of pot (the name is escaping me right now) - their names were written on their projects which were left on the table to dry. The siblings all played around on the floor. The other mothers tended to the younger children, assisted with the older kids when needed and had plenty of time to chat and get to know one another better. We will meet again next week to finish up and do another project - then we will fire the pots, take a field trip to show the kids how other pottery is made and purchase paints, we will paint and glaze the pots and hopefully they will be back to us by Christmas. In the process I am also learning about the process of pottery.

After the lesson the kids all went into the yard to play outside and have a snack. We mothers watched over them and chatted. We discussed the coop, homeschooling in general and just life. Many of us are still in a getting to know you phase and don't know each others life stories. It is fun because we all seem to get along so far and have much in common. The mothers range from their mid twenties to their mid thirties and all of us had children at a young age and have two or three kids already. We also seem to have similar parenting philosophies or approaches which does help in a situation like this.

Will keep you posted.


September 11, 2003

Fall Curriculum... Okay so I have put together a work in progress for a curriculum for this fall. We did not go with a packaged one but we are not unschooling either. Serona feels it important to have a classical or traditional education especially in things like phonics and math and after reading both The Well Trained Mind and the Unschoolers Handbook and a variety of other resources I tend to agree. But this year the expense of a package such as Calvert was simply out of our range so I did a lot of research and put together something myself.

I began by researching guidelines or suggestions for what a child should learn by first grade (I examined several school districts goals and checklists as well as some homeschool guidelines) and combined them to come up with our years goals. Then going from them, I made a list for each subject, I created a curriculum and began looking for resources (cheap, free and second hand) to accomplish those goals in a fun and adaptable way.

I got my free copy of the Teacher's Planner from Lakeshore Learning and wrote down the first months daily and weekly plan for both my kindergartener and my preschooler. Some resources I am using for kindergarten include Phonics Pathways, The Bob books, Spectrum Math Workbook - Grade K, Karyn Henley's Bible Storybook and Tell me the Story of Jesus as well as a bible verse book for children and MANY online resources.

For my preschooler we will continue to use the Sound Box books, and we will add Slow and Steady, Get me Ready as well as Letter of the Day and some other resources I have done. I will continue to do one letter or two a week and make a letter collage, keep a word list and our own sound box as well as activities and coloring sheets around the letter.

I have tried to keep the two children's lessons around some similar things (ie letter for phonics, writing and preschool letter of the day) so I can do some other themes together, like during the week we do A we will go apple picking, and so on. Many of the subjects I will teach them at the same time knowing their level of involvement and understanding will be different. I just figure if I can entertain my preschooler that is sufficient anything else he picks up is extra. His goals for the year include basic letter recognition, numbers, shapes, colors, animal sounds, life skills, basic preschool activities. If he picks up any of the science, history, music, art and so on I teach my daughter great. He still talks about sublimation and says it is a solid going directly to a gas. Do I think he understands it? Probably not, but he has the concept in his mind and sometime later it will be easier for him to understand as a part of him already experienced it (and it is fun to hear a two year old explain sublimation!) and will recall it in some way I believe.

Each day we will have 10 minutes of bible study, phonics, writing and math. Then I will alternate once a week science/technology, history/social studies, art/music/drama, physical education and health. This is my plan though I know the best laid plans often go astray and I am prepared and ready for that. I realize some days we will get little done and other days we will accomplish more. I hope over time it will all balance out.

I will still be working with those teachable moments and I believe I am an unschooler at heart, or as I once heard and did not understand at the time, a "Classical Unschooler" but we are just starting and I am sure we will each be a million things during our journey and that is the beauty and realistic nature of homeschooling. We have the freedom to self-identify, even in unusual combinations, and the ability to change our minds and become something different, even in mid gear.

Two things I am sure of. I will always read to them, picture books, story books, good literature, whatever I am reading (as long as it is not inappropriate) and simple phonics readers for them. We read so much in a day that sometimes it amazes me, I am so thankful my children seem to love reading so far. Both can be found picking up and burying their noses in a book throughout the day at different points. Even my two year old who is "go, go, go" loves to read himself and be read to.

The second thing I am sure of is I will find the teachable moments and utilize them. We will not hesitate to take advantage of their natural curiosity and those endless preschool and early school questions of why or what does this do or how do you? Some of our best moments have come from these questions. Where does soy milk come from? We proceeded to learn how to make it and to make it that very moment as a family. "What is a Toucan?" We read about it, hopped online and listened to them and learned about their habitat and habits and printed out coloring sheets and found colorful pictures of them to print that moment. And Serona's favorite, " What is that?" asking about the dry ice that came in our Simon Delivers (online grocer) order which led to the sublimation experiments. Or the simple insistence of doing math in a parking lot that leads to me add the concrete slabs on the sidewalk and subtract the rocks next to our car. Those are the moments I truly love teaching and they love learning.

I have made over 30 file folder games, created a dozen felt board sets and made sandpaper and felt letters. I have searched for and found good materials but I still love using the things we find in everyday life as we find them to be our lessons. I love the internet and all the great materials I find there and I admit it is the first place we start each answer to a question (often supplemented by a trip to the library and perhaps a field trip or experiment) and i hope that only continues.

Looking forward to this year and all the adventures sure to come with it.