August 31, 2004

Tuesday Log

Today I woke up feeling lousy - I think I caught the kids cold. I stumbled out bed and put movies on for the kids until breakfast time and then I called a friend. It is wonderful to have the kind of friend who just hears your voice and says "What's wrong?" and then says "I can be there in 15 minutes to pick up your kids" The dear friend was a lifesaver today - she picked up the kids and I crawled back into bed pulled the covers over my head and took a nearly 4 hour nap! It was wonderful and I think I was able to kick whatever was forming in my system and prevent it from taking hold.

After picking up the kids, who had a great time and made me get well cards I took the kids out for dinner and custard. We had a nice time. I bumped into a friend there and we were both rather embarrassed to see each other there as neither of us usually gives our family fast food and we know each other from an organization that promotes healthy and whole eating. We just kind of laughed about it.

We headed home and then took the kids on a nature walk to our local pond. I was quite a site with the three kids and two dogs - but we had a good time. Even Sirah got out of her stroller for awhile and walked. It was very cute Ciaran held her hand as she walked along the path - up a big hill. Rhiannon was walking the puppy and I was pushing an empty stroller and being pulled along by our two year old Aussie!

We turned the pond into a science and art lesson. We talked about the different animals, insects and plants we saw. We talked about frogs and crickets and then the kids each picked something to draw in their nature notebooks while Sirah and I explored the pond together.

Then a long storytime and bed. Rhiannon was having a hard time sleeping so I pulled her out of bed and we headed downstairs to the library for some one on one lesson time. We alternated picking subjects to do. She chose art first and we used our Usborne Drawing Animals book and she learned how to draw polar bears.

Then I chose "First Language Lessons" by Jesse Wise and we talked about nouns. She also recited a short poem she memorized and picked out the nouns in it. She recited the poem to her stuffed dog (she though this was very goofy) and then to me. Then I had her illustrate the poem we talked about what an illustrator does and then I read the poem to her slowly line by line so she could illustrate it. She really enjoyed this and I think it was an excellent exercise. Then Serona called and she recited it to him over the phone.

She finished the evening with handwriting practice (her choice) she focused on Upper and lowercase A. Then she said she was tired (finally at 10:30pm) and headed up to bed. I came upstairs shortly after and found her asleep under and on top of books - I pulled 18 storybooks out of her bed!

It turned into a good and fun day.


"The Caterpillar Illustrations"

The Caterpillar Poem

The Caterpillar Page One

The Caterpillar Page Two

The Caterpillar Page Three

Who Owns the Children?

The state would like to say they do - or atleast the right to own them when they want to. The current battle in Pennsylvania over state monitoring of homeschooling families brings the point home. From a recent Christian Science Monitor article:

"Babette Hankin of Croyden, Pa., likes to show off her home-schooling program. Not only do her seven children stay occupied all day, but the five of school age seem to thrive in her regimented rotation covering earth science, reading, math, and even piano practice.

Yet despite pride in the program, Mrs. Hankin is suing the Bristol Township School District for requiring a yearly review. At dispute is the age-old but not yet settled question of who owns the children, and who therefore should oversee their education - the parents, the state, or God?"

The point to these parents is not whether or not they are meeting the states standards for education - but rather whether the state has the right to push such standards on them and evaluate them.

For a similar case in PA, read this Fox News Story, which brings up similar questions:

The Newborns homeschool their kids and object to the legal requirement that the local district superintendent must have final approval of their children's education, which includes religious studies.

"It's not the paperwork we are objecting to ... because there is no religious objection to paperwork. It is the final approval by the superintendent, a secular institution, over our children's religious education," said Maryalice Newborn.

Then ask yourself who should have final authority over their kids education? I think you can guess what my answer here is.


The Abuses of Schools

This story from New Mexico seems almost unreal to me and illustrates that our schools may have too much power and speaks other volumes about the police in this community (if the allegations are true).

Third-grader arrested for disorderly conduct

ESPANOLA, N.M. (AP) — An Espanola third-grader was handcuffed and arrested by police after hitting another student with a basketball, the child's mother and her lawyer say.

"The Legislature never envisioned that the law would be used to lock an 8-year-old in any jail, especially an adult jail," attorney Sheri Raphaelson said.

"This is the most egregious example of poor judgment by police that I've ever seen in my 15 years of practicing law," she said.

According to a juvenile citation for disorderly conduct, Jerry Trujillo was arrested Thursday and booked into the Espanola jail after he "got out of control and refused to go back to class."

Police Chief Richard Guillen, who was not at work Thursday, said he had few details but that officers "couldn't deal with" the boy before taking him into custody.

He said he had conflicting accounts of where the boy was held and for how long.

It's illegal to keep a juvenile at an adult facility.

Espanola school Superintendent Vernon Jaramillo said the incident was being investigated. He expected a report from the school's principal, Corinne Salazar.

The boy's mother, Angelica Esquibel, said he was sent to the school office Thursday when he raised his voice to a teacher after hitting another child with the basketball.

Esquibel, who works next door to the school, said she was called to the office, and that Jerry began crying and saying he wanted to go home.

She said a school counselor wanted him to return to class, and that when the boy ran outside and started crying louder, the counselor told him if he wasn't going to be in school, she was going to call police.

The counselor told him officers would handcuff him and put him in a cell "until he changes his attitude," Esquibel said.

Guillen said he'd been told the mother agreed police should be called. She said she told school officials not to call them.

Two officers tried to tell Jerry to go back to class and told him he had a choice — class or jail, Esquibel said. When the boy got upset and loud, they handcuffed him, she said.

The police report says Jerry was arrested, taken to jail, booked and released to his parents.

Esquibel said that when she arrived at the police station, he was standing against a wall, crying.

He told her he was placed "in a dark room with a window, a metal toilet and a metal sink," and that inmates banged on the window "saying they were going to get him and cussing," she said. He said officers told him to stop crying or they'd let the inmates get him, she said.

The emphasis added is my own. I mean this is an extremely harsh response of a school and police department - yet it happened and the beginning of the article leads you to believe it was legal. Yet another reason to homeschoo.


Audobon and artists

Gradually bringing the kids back into a schoolish schedule - but trying to transition in a natural way. Yesterday we read a biography storybook on John Audubon and looked at some of his drawings. We also watched a movie about African Animals on safari and started to keep track of our A words by listing all the animals that started with A. We went to library and picked out more books about Africa at the kids request and they played with animal puppets while I browsed for their books.

We went for a walk and had the kids bring their Nature notebooks and draw some pictures of nature themselves. Rhiannon wanted to find some birds to draw like Audobon and we ended up drawing ducks and frogs. Rhiannon also spent some time drawing some berries on a leaf. We had some quiet time at the lake and then ran our two dogs in the big open field.

We returned home to explore our yard, the flowers, the droppings from the trees and all the other things we can discover. We talked about nature and that night both kids thanked God for the wonderful things in nature around them.

We made curry for dinner and doubled the recipe to share with friends. That acted as our math lesson for the day and while I was working on parts they could not help with Rhiannon practiced writing her letter A correctly. She has been writing for awhile but we are really trying to work on the proper way to write (look and feel wise) and it is frustrating to her - yet she enjoys when the finished product looks nicer than it started.

So we worked on life skills, art, history, physical education, math, handwriting and language arts today. Not to mention all the things they pick up in the course of the day and through the books we read.

And of course we read - we have moved back into that rhythm which the summer leads us out of (we typically read about 3-5 storybooks a day in the summer, and 10-12 a day during the school year - this usually translates from about 30 min a day to 1.5 to 2 hours a day). Our library trip found me with my big suitcase on wheels and the odd looks I get for checking out a suitcase full at a time - about 70 books or so. My online reserve account gets close to maxing itself out and I need to stay vigilant about checking our current check outs online so I don't pay so many late fees at the library.

A friend once criticized me for checking so many books out at a time until I assured her that we read them all and we read them over the course of one to two weeks and then return them. So while I may tie up quite a few books at a time we are using them and we return them quickly and that is what they are there for. I just hope the library never brings down their maximum allowed out at a time.


August 30, 2004

Family Games and Movies

The kids are getting old enough now where we are trying to have more specific family nights all together (atleast once a week). We had one of those nights last night. We ordered pizza and rented movies and watched them while the kids had a picnic on a blanket in front of the TV. Even Sirah joined in and sat with them with her own little plate this time.

After the movie we cleaned up our dishes and leftovers and headed into the library to play a game. One of my favorite memories of growing up was playing board games all together as a family and I want to give my kids that same memory. Of course I must admit I will be more excited when they are older and we can enjoy games I enjoy more - but for now we can play kids games so they learn and have fun and are interested.

Last night we played Trouble - which I remember playing myself as a kid. We modified the rules a a bit and did not play that you could knock one another back to start - we started playing at nearly 8pm and I did not want it to last all night. The kids had a good time and we learned about counting and direction and taking turns and being patient and respectful and being happy for someone else when they win even when we don't. Ciaran won what turned out to be a tight finish and I must admit to being proud of Rhiannon - she got very excited for him, clapped and gave him a high five. It was a pleasant and surprising reaction. It showed me she is starting to mature more.

I enjoyed having family time even though it is more challenging now. While we played we took turn holding sirah and replacing all the books she took off the shelves. We took potty breaks and had to repeat the rules many times but it was all worth it and a great time was had by all.


Weekend Camping

We spent the weekend camping with our homeschool support group. It was great fun - this is our third trip together and we have one more planned for next month. We had 5 families, 10 adults, 9 kids and 3 dogs! On Friday we set up camp and ate a taco salad potluck dinner. We of course followed it with smores (one family had never roasted marshmallows or made smores - so it was really fun) with the kids new marshmallow roasters. One family bought marshmallow stick that you push a button and they rotate the kids loved them and were even great about sharing. Most people turned in early that night but I stayed up alone until the campfire died down crocheting a blanket I'm working on for one of the kids in our group. I loved working by the fire and looking up at the stars, it was peaceful.

Saturday was a very full day. We got up early I took the kids over to the playground while Serona made breakfast. The kids and the dogs and I walked down to the playground and made some friends there. After breakfast all the dads took the kids fishing (even our kids went down with them though are vegetarians) and spent the morning by the river. When they returned we had lunch and then a group of us went for a hike. I had Rhiannon and Ciaran with me and the dogs, Serona kept Sirah at the campground. Ciaran had a meltdown and I ended up stopping with him and the dogs then we spent the remainder of the walk alone. I had to carry him most of the way on my back - we stopped and explored and enjoyed some mom and me time. The dogs walked with us.

When we got back we all went to the beach. It was Sirah's first time at the beach. They had a sand bottom pool with a shallow section so the kids could just explore and play - they had a great time. We were there for a few hours and Serona helped teach Rhiannon to float and explored the shoreline with Ciaran. I played with Sirah and made all the bathroom runs. After the beach we headed home and had a dinner of veggie dogs. Then it was smores time again and then the kids used hammers to open some geodes we had purchased. After that they headed to bed and for a brief moment we had three sleeping kids.

The adults sat around the campfire and played Taboo and Run-Off (presidential trivia) and headed off to bed in dribs and drabs - with the last group of us heading to bed around 1am. It was fun to chat, play games and get to know one another more and build on our shared history. I really enjoy all the families in our hs group and we seem to be a good fit together even with all our differences.

Sunday morning we woke up and cleaned up the tent and then had breakfast. We then enjoyed a nice slow morning around the campfire with all the parents and the kids running around playing nearby. We had a nice big section of several campsites put together that gave the kids lots of space to run around. Then everyone packed up and headed home.

I think everyone enjoyed themselves, I know our family did and just two more weeks until our next trip!


August 27, 2004

We Love Australian Shepherds

Meet our new Aussie!

August 26, 2004

Homeschoolers Fight Regulations

Fox news has a piece on a PA family taking their suburban Pittsburgh school district to court.

"The Newborns homeschool their kids and object to the legal requirement that the local district superintendent must have final approval of their children's education, which includes religious studies."

Read the article: PA Homeschoolers Fight Regulations.



We had a good morning at the arboretum. We planned a day at home but the kids really wanted to go for a walk and there were some nice freebies at our arboretum so we decided to head over there for the morning.

We got quite a good walk in and the kids enjoyed looking at the treehouse exhibits. There are 12 artistic treehouses at the arboretum, many which are interactive for you to climb on or walk in. There was a worksheet you could use with a variety of leaves listed and you needed to say which leaf belonged to which kind of tree. Rhiannon and Ciaran really got into this.

Each of us had our favorite tree house. My favorite was the one that had many different rainbow silk scarves hanging down for you to walk through. It was beautiful and very fun to walk through. Ciaran's favorite was one that had a big black metal ladder wrapped around it that you could climb on. He also really liked the treehouse that was called TreeMan that you could climb into the head of the man. Rhiannon's favorite treehouse was a metal one that had a pathway that sparkled due to all the different color rocks/crystals they had. It shimmered like it was crystals and she really enjoyed being in that one. There was also a cool cotton maze one.

There were free donuts, bagels, coffee and juice and of course many beautiful flowers and trees. There was free literature, educational materials, temporary tattoos and books. After our walk came to an end we took a three mile drive to see some of the other sites. Some of their favorites from the drive include the crab apple trees, the hedges and the linden trees.

I was hesitant to go out this morning thinking it would be best to stay home, but I think getting out today was just what they needed. And we really did have a great time.


August 25, 2004

Ciaran and Sirah's Time

After Rhia and I worked on her lessons she watched Hans Christian Anderson while Ciaran and I played and worked together. First we used our pegboard and worked on matching colors. Then we counted the pegs working on one to one correspondence up to 10 and counting to 25. Then we played with tangrams and made pictures with them and matched them to diagrams for awhile. He made a rabbit, boat and train. Then we played with our wooden food and he practiced cutting and naming the different fruits and vegetables and which was a fruit and which was a vegetable.

Sirah and I played with her Eintein Music blocks and with a variety of our play animals and puppets. She also liked playing with the letters from our letter mat and reading some books. She sat on my lap and played with her rainbow stacker and then played food with Ciaran and I for awhile.

We read several books today including quite a few chapters from "The Wizard of Oz", Amigo and Amelia Bedilia. We listened to Vivaldi and we just played together. It was a good day.


First Lessons

We decided to ease into our first lessons today. I don't really plan on "starting" for two more weeks. However, Rhiannon needed some distraction so we pulled out some of our new books and did some lessons.

We started with the first two lessons in First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind by Jesse Wise. Here we learned the definition of a noun and then memorized "The Caterpillar" by Christina Rossetti. We used this short poem to name the nouns that were "persons" and she enjoyed memorizing this.

We moved onto review lessons in Phonics Pathways by Dolores Hiskes. We were reviewing the ck and k sounds and the end and beginning of words. We read several sentences and many words and just got back into the swing of phonics. She had been reading every day but recently took a break for a few weeks and we needed the review. Most of her difficulty came when she tried to rush so she just guessed instead of sounded out the words. When she takes time to think about it she rarely messes up.

Then we did our big "lesson" for the day - we started our Miquon Math! We just did the first worksheet and introduced both of us to the concept - we played around with a variety of things to do and did quite a few lessons all on the same worksheet - though when you look at the markings on the worksheet you would never know! I like the hands on and conceptualizing that goes on with Miquon.

Today we learned about sets and the basics of using the "rod stair" with cuisenaire rods. We talked about how to identify and count objects in a set and to compare sets. Rhiannon matched sets with numerals and then practiced writing those numbers. She also learned how to use the different size rods to represent the different sets. We began by counting out one to one correspondence for each item in the set with a single small rod and then placing those rods in a row and comparing the size of that to other rods. Then we used several rows of rods to demonstrate how different groups or sets can represent a single set (6 is 2 sets of 3 or 3 sets of 2 or 6 individuals). We then compared smallest and largest sets and talked about how the "rod stair works" how each is one step higher than the last or how if you add one more you get the next number. It was a great lesson and fun. We went to do two more activities with the set but Rhiannon is sick and asked not to do anymore - so we stopped for the day.

It was a great first day of lessons and a nice way to gradually move into things. I think I will let her watch a movie now to relax (she is sick) and work with Ciaran and Sirah.


OT: Political Opinions on the Election

For those of you interested in my opinion on the upcoming elections you can feel free to read my Why Your Life Depends on this Election post on CyberEcology.


The Comforts of Home

I love our home. I love the comforts it provides. Last night after the kids went to bed (before the marathon of kids climbing into our bed) Serona and I had some time to ourselves (a rarity these days). We sat on the couch in our living room and he read Unfit for Command while I crocheted a blanket for our soon to be nephew. We could sit quietly together under a homemade blanket I made and have occasional discussions about a snippet he was reading. It was an enjoyable evening and reminds me of the simple comforts our home provides.


Conveniences of our Time

We live in a convenient time. Last night I grocery shopped in my kitchen while Serona and I chatted while he made dinner and the kids played nearby. Before we headed to bed we turned on the dishwasher and Roomba and we awoke to clean dishes, clean floors and groceries on our doorstep!

While our society is often so "Go, Go, Go!" and busy - some of the conveniences really are nice and help me out.


August 24, 2004

Imaginary Play

I think the world of imaginary play is so important and am glad that my kids enjoy spending so much time there. I am always amazed at how creative they can be. During the winter months they often spend hours in a day together in their imaginary worlds. During the summer we find that time is a bit less as they focus more on active play. Still Rhiannon dresses up nearly every day and during their forced downtimes they often spend the time in creative play.

Our children wake up sometime between 6 and 7 am each morning. Ciaran is usually around 6 am like clockwork and Rhia seems to enjoy her sleep more and will sleep in until nearly 7am. We recently instituted the rule that they must stay in their rooms until 8am no matter what. They can come out at 8am once their rooms are picked up. This time has turned into some of their more creative times of the day.

This morning I could hear sounds of a fire rescue and a scene from Star Wars being acted out with his fire engine and darth vader figure. He typically enjoys cars, trucks, little people and blocks during this time.

From Rhiannon's room sounds of Areil's song wafted through the air. She has been in a doll mood lately and spends much of her quiet time playing with her Princess dolls (grandparents actually found non-barbie princess dolls) and her new beautiful American Girlish doll with her wardrobe of clothes.

It is interesting to me the choices they make. When we first had kids we thought the whole gender thing was learned. For the most part I now disagree, some of it may be learned but most of it appears to come hardwired. We raised our kids in a pretty neutral environment. Rhiannon had few dolls and we tried to focus on blocks, books, and more neutral toys. We had cars, trucks, balls and dolls for her. She would ignore the cars and trucks and balls and enjoy the dolls and dress up. When Ciaran was younger we also made sure his toys were not heavier in one than the other, but he soon was drawn to typical little boy toys. As they have grown we have let them focus more on their interests and typical gifts for Rhia seem to include dolls and dressup and for Ciaran trucks, frogs and balls.

Don't get me wrong both play dress-up, run cars around the house and play with dolls. They both enjoy musical toys, art, and toys that spur their imagination such as blocks, toy animals, and puzzles. Yet I can not help but notice that their is a natural inclination even in the types of imaginary and creative play they choose. I am not going to fight it I see no reason to. We encourage all types of play and they participate in all types of play and have a wide variety of toys to choose from and utilize. They should be free to explore and focus on some of their favorites more. As adults we do those very same things.

We do have two rules in our house that we have stuck to so far. No Barbie or barbiesque dolls and no guns. We feel pretty strong about these and I do not see the rules changing - however you can see versions of even those in our home. Rhiannon has non-barbie Disney princess dolls that she plays some similar games with and Ciaran has Star Wars figures that I know he acts out some of the same types of activities with. Still there is a difference in their play and the level of that type of play that goes on.

All in all we need to just let the kids be kids and have fun. Offer them things to spur and encourage their imagination and creative side and watch what they do with it. Give them quiet time that they can focus on this and watch them blossom. Off to make breakfast.


August 22, 2004

Calendar Girls

I just returned from watching Calendar Girls with some good friends. I really enjoyed the movie and the company. It was a touching and funny story and makes you truly appreciate your friendships. These are women I intend to be friends with for years to come. Our families continue to grow closer as do we. Several of our husbands recently took a trip to the Boundary Waters together and many of us are camping buddies. They were the perfect people to see the movie with and I really enjoyed our time together.

I recommend the movie and I recommend you see it with someone you care about and someone you can laugh with.


Grandparent's Visit

Well the grandparents spent two weeks with us and we had a great time. They left on Saturday morning to many tears and well wishes. While they were here we played games, ate out and just spent lots of quality and quantity of time together!

We had a friend's birthday party from hs group and they rented one of those giant air jumper castles and the kids had a blast in it. Even Sirah and I toke a turn in there. It was hard work! We also visited the Berenstein Bears at our local library storytime. The kids had their picture taken with Mama Bear.

We have had a low key weekend here as we try to wind the kids down and distract them from missing their grandparents. I'm thinking we will delay starting school for a few more weeks to give the kids time to unwind and relax and enjoy these last nice days of summer.


August 17, 2004

Positive Press

Is it just me or have you noticed an increase in positive press for homeschooling this year? It seems that people are finally being more positive overall about the movement. While most articles still mention the usual suspects of "socialization" and "comprehensive education" it seems the framing has changed. It is subtle but it seems to be there. Articles now seem to point that out as a criticism some have rather than as "truth". This is a positive development. I've also noticed more mainstream coverage of homeschooling, such as this recent article from CNN.


August 16, 2004

The Charms of Me

I am not a jewelry person - I don't recall ever really being one. For years I have only worn my wedding ring (a beautiful gold claddaugh ring with an emerald for the heart and diamonds for the crown) and an occasional necklace (mother and child, irish knots, and other very meaningful ones). When I was in grad school I often wore a jingly bell ankle bracelet and occasionally some earrings. I am also not a fad person or a fashion person at all. So I must admit I was surprised when I discovered that I am actually interested in something that is popular right now in jewelry - charm bracelets.

I was at a birthday party and met a woman who had one of these Italian Charm bracelets on and each charm represented something about her life and her family. I thought that was something very special and it was also very simply done - a small simple silver bracelet - I decided that was something I would be interested in. So I will start my own small collection of things that are meaningful to me.

The thing about these bracelets is they are cheap individually but when you add them all up it will be expensive so I need to resist the urge to go out and buy all the charms I would like now and build it up over time. I started browsing charms and thinking about what I would use to represent me. Here is what I came up with.

Cross (my faith),
Clauddaugh ring (my marriage with Serona),
Princess (Rhiannon loves all things princess),
Frog (Ciaran loves all things frogs),
Baby footprint (Sirah loves walking and I love baby feet),
Paw print (for my two faithful aussies),
USA (my country),
Heart with the irish flag in it (Irish at heart),
Emerald (my birthstone),
I love NY (where I am from and to remind me of all my family that is there now),
Teacher with students (homeschooling),
Stack of books (love of reading),
Shamrock (luck of the Irish),
Recycle symbol (environmentalist),
USA ribbon (support our troops and remember 9/11),
@ symbol (for this blog and all my computing),
Camping tent (love of camping),
Knitting needles (for crocheting and crafting)
Pen and paper (for writing both Serona and I)

These are some of the key things that make up who I am and I think collecting them all together on a simple bracelet is appealing to me. So for once (or maybe twice there is probably something in my past I am forgetting) I am going to jump in with the fad and start collecting Italian Charms for a charm braclet.


First Birthday Party

We celebrated Sirah's first birthday yesterday with a party of friends and family. It was nice to have my parents here to enjoy the day with us. We also had some friends from church and our homeschool group join us. She seemed to enjoy herself. We placed the cake in front of her and she was not too sure about it and never really warmed up to it - she liked sticking her arm and elbow in it and she seemed to enjoy when we sang to her - but was not too fond of the taste of cake. We then gave her a brownie and that she really enjoyed!

She wore her flower crown that Serona made. I love this tradition we started in our family. Each year we make each child a flower crown for their birthday - sometimes they only have patience enough to wear it during cake and pictures (Sirah this year) othertimes they want to wear it all the time (Rhiannon's 4th birthday party). Either way it is worth the effort of making it. each year we collect flowers (sometimes from the neighborhood, sometimes from the florist, or a combination of the two) and then mix and match them and wind them onto a homemade crown - the children get to wear it at sometime during their party - always for cake and singing and then we save them and dry them out over our kitchen sink and then store them. It is a beautiful tradition and a simple one that everyone enjoys.

Her birthday was fun and she received many wonderful gifts including: board books, educational books, little care bear dolls, a Jesus puppet, a ball, soft plush toys, some wooden toys, some new cartridges for her Music Blocks Composer that she adores, her first Microsoft toy (an Intelli-table) and a baby doll.

She is a wonderful little girl, walking all around and charming everyone with her red hair and big smiles. She is becoming more opinionated and learning to express those opinions. She has a very cheery disposition and a fiery temper. She is a joy to be with even though she is a night owl with a typical bedtime of nearly 1am. We enjoy spending our days with her and celebrating our first year with her.



Several have asked what is going on with the comments system. Blogger now asks you to register to comment - however this is NOT neccesary - just choose to post anonymously and you need not register. Look forward to hearing your thoughts.


Manchurian Candidate

My parents gave us the gift of a date over the weekend. We went out to eat at a nearby Mexican restuarant we both enjoy and then headed off to the movies. We actually had a rare thing occur -we both wanted to see the same movie as our first choice. As our taste is usually quite different this was refreshing and we decided right away we would go see the Manchurian Candidate. After waiting in one theater for awhile and then being told their projector broke ! we headed off to another theater to catch a late showing of the film.

I enjoyed it - it was different from what I expected. I enjoyed the storyline - however I felt it was at times unneccesarily graphic. I do not enjoy violence in movies and I had to turn away from the movie several times. Perhaps many of you may not feel the same but I am particularly sensitive to violence in film. The storyline was good - if not predictable. I enjoy the cast and was pleasently surprised by Meryl Streep's performance (I don't typically enjoy her) she really played her role quite well. I would recommend it - especially if you are at all politically inclined. We look forward to seeing the original and comparing them. Though I will guess now that I will enjoy the original better as I usually prefer classics to contemporary films.


Around the House

On Saturday we worked on a variety of household projects - including putting up curtain rods, a baby gate and electrical work. Serona and my dad put a new light in our home office and worked through this laundry list of chores while my mother and I ran some errands with Sirah and the older two played near grandpa and dad while they worked. We got a fair amount done during the day.


August 14, 2004

Butterfly Garden

On a recent trip to the zoo we visited a butterfly garden. And it was a hit! We spent quite awhile in there and I think we could have even spent more time there. My parents waited outside with Sirah while I took Ciaran and Rhiannon inside. My parents were astonished that so many people came in and went out in the time we spent in there. The kids really enjoyed roaming around with the butterflies. The zoo provided a clipboard listing the different species with their pictures so we roamed around trying to match the butterflies we saw with the ones on the list. We were also noticing the different types of chrysallis. Every time we saw a painted lady the kids were sure it was the ones we raised that the zoo caught.

Some of the different species of butterflies we saw yesterday were: queen, buckeye, zebra longwing, comman, clouded sulphur, great spangled frittallary, julia, sleepy orange, white peacock, checkered white, monarch, painted lady, giant swallowtail, zebra swallowtail, and even an uhler's artic. Rhiannon's favorite of all those was still the pained lady - though she also liked the julia. Ciaran's favorite was the giant swallowtail and he liked the sleepy orange. We seemed to see the most of the zebra longwings and the hardest to identify was the uhler's artic.

The butterfly garden was a very peaceful place and encouraged me to research and consider planting one ourselves next year. Definately a place we will visit again - next time I think I will bring our own checklist so we can keep track of them. We did take the checklist out to a bench and write down the ones we saw. I highly recommend this activity.


Grandparents Visit

This week seems to have flown by. My parents are visiting here from New York and we all have been enjoying their visit. They arrived on Monday and we had a relaxing evening at home together. Tuesday passed by as we enjoyed the day together and then Serona returned from a business trip he was on in New Jersey. We spent Wenesday running some errands including a visit to the library. Sirah got some special time with Grandpa here as she brought him all the puppets on display one at a time and just enjoyed playing with him. Rhiannon and Grandpa put on several shows which including Grandpa dressing up as the king - crown, cape and all.

Thursday we had a birthday at the park for a hs group - Sirah and grandpa played together for awhile, he let her go on the slide, play in the woodchips and just walk all around exploring with him. I took over with her and Ciaran took Grandpa on an adventure for the rest of the time. They went looking for frogs of course, though they did not catch any. They found several grasshoppers and followed a little bird around for awhile. They explored the beach, the shoreline, the woods and the nearby docks and boat launch. Grandpa was content to just follow Ciaran and let him take the lead - both seemed to really enjoy themselves.

We've had several fun meals together and have eaten out several times. The kids have impressed us with their good behavior during this unusual time even as their schedules and normal habits get disrupted (for far more fun activities) and they sometimes go without quiet time and naps and stay up late - but they are really enjoying the time.

Friday we spent the day at the zoo and had a blast. The kids enjoyed taking grandma and grandpa to see all their favorite places at the zoo. We did some special things we don't normally do - like ride a camel and go in the butterfly garden. They really seemed to like the camel ride - I thought Ciaran would be worried but it ended up that Rhiannon had some more resistance - in the end they both did it and had fun. We have some cute pictures as well. I'll post about the butterfly garden seperately.

We spent the entire day at the zoo, had lunch, treats and souveners and saw many animals and even the bird show. We had perfect weather and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. We stayed so long we missed rush hour traffic on the return and had a late dinner. Looking forward to an enjoyable weekend together.


August 9, 2004


Well it was a busy one. Serona returned from Mexico late Friday night. Saturday we headed out to get a free entertainment center that we will need to refinish. I am just excited that it has doors that cover the TV set - hoping the whole out of sight, out of mind philosophy will work here. That evening Serona did a drama at our church and then we spent some time together that evening as a family and then as a couple. Sunday we went to church and then headed over to the bookstore. Here I had a mommy moment as Ciaran (still working on potty training) had an accident all over the floor in the kids section. Here I am with Sirah in the sling and the other two kids in tow approaching the manager to ask for towels and a mop. We cleaned it up and headed out. I kept my cool and comforted Ciaran even as I was cleaning up his mess.

Then we headed over to pick up the newest member of our family. Another Australian Shepherd puppy - she is 7 weeks old and just beautiful. We spent the afternoon helping her get used to our yard, home, kids and other Aussie (now 2 years old) and just playing with her. Serona mowed the lawn and put a post in cement to finally hang our hammockk up again! YAY!
It was a busy and fun weekend. Grandma and Grandpa are here for a visit from New York this week so activity will be high and blogging will be slow. Though I need to add it was exciting to get a box from Alibris today - my new Well Trained Mind came (can't wait to reread it and see the new additions) and some Bob books. Still waiting for my Sound Box books, My Thank You Bible, and the grammer book we are going to try as well as our Miquon math.


August 7, 2004

Local Coffeeshop

Toady I wandered into our local coffeeshop for the first time. Serona is home from Mexico and gave me a much needed break. I took my crocheting and went to have a coffee and treat. It was a nice break.

It was also interesting to see the people come in and out. For the first time I truly wished I could speak Spanish. A young couple came in and the woman was watching me work on my blanket and I could tell she wanted to talk to me about it but she spoke Spanish and I spoke English - instead we made eye contact and smiled and she watched for awhile until they left. I wish I could have engaged her - the first time I think I truly regret not having the language. Especially on the heels of Serona's return from Mexico and his talk about trying hard to speak as much as possible in Spanish while he was there.

I enjoyed seeing my neighborhood come in and out and I think I will have to do it more often and strike up some conversations. If you have a local coffeeshop you haven't been to it might be worth the trip.


August 6, 2004


A good friend helped me paint my bathroom this week - truth be told she mostly painted - i helped with the first coat and then provided child care while she finished. I am very happy with it - it is a bold shade of red and looks great with the elephant safari theme we have in there now. I am excited to have atleast one room in our home that is not white! We moved 8 months ago from a house with different colors in every room to a solid cream house and we are finally starting to add color.


August 5, 2004

In Rhiannon's words


I've missed you and I'm longing for you to come home dad. Have you got much done? What kind of animals have you seen? Why does a zebra have it's stripes?

We went to a juggler named Bill which I did not like. You never get tired of doing this. There's nothing more ridiculous than that juggler. I thought it was funny.

We had our friends sleep over. We were praying for you all the time. I wrote on paper today. I played whiskers.

Grandma and Grandpa,
We had a great week and I hope you are safe coming here. I miss you and I love you. I hope you have a great time. Could you bring me out a little trampoline for inside the house when you are here?

Dear Red (uncle's friend),
I hope you have had a great time. I hope you'll be able to come over again - all of you. I hope that you could get here safely in the plane and not have any accidents or anything.

A Messy Birthday

We just returned from a great birthday party. One of the children's friends turned 3 today and she had a great party. The kids all had pizza and limeade first and then went out into their driveway and lawn where there were stations set up. There was paint, slime, playdough, fingerpaint, markers, crayons, anything a child could want to make a creative mess with. Some kids made paper airplanes and there was face painting and silly string. They had a great time and amazingly did not get as messy as I imagined.

They had cupcakes and each child received a plain cupcake and two giant scoops of vanilla and chocolate frosting and then passed around bottles of sprinkles - each had their own little plastic knife - it was fun to watch the kids eat. One little girl kept spreading frosting on top of her cake then eating it off and then starting the process over again, another child just spooned into the frosting. It was a clever idea and they all enjoyed themselves.

Rhiannon has a good friend who was the older brother of the birthday girl. Her relationship with this little boy is very interesting. They met when they were about 18 months old and have been the best of friends since. The interesting part about it is they rarely see each other. - but they have this amazing connection that has lasted over the years. The mother and I get along very well but it seems our schedules rarely collide and we often go months at a time without seeing each other - the last time the kids saw one another was probably nearly 4 months ago and before then almost 8 months - yet she still talks about this little boy and she still says she is going to marry him and the minute they are together they are inseparable. It is a very interesting relationship to watch and it has always been that way and has never been that way with another one of her friends.

Rhiannon has many friends and she gets along with many different children and is close to several of them. She often changes who she plays with even within the same group of kids - but this little boy seems to have always held a special place in her heart. Luckily Ciaran gets along well with his little sister (the birthday girl) and we moms like one another.

Anyway the party was a great success and a good way to spend an afternoon. They are having quiet and naptime now and I need to figure out how to pass the time when they wake up and burn off some of that energy.


Day at the Park

We met our homeschool group at a playground this morning for some free playtime. It was an enjoyable time. The playground was very nice - it had a lot of shaded areas (which for some reason is unusual) including some big canvas tarps they placed over the center of several play structures and some nice tree shade. It was refreshing to see that the kids had some more protection from the sun.

I love my homeschool support group moms - they are always there for me - to listen to me - to support me and to help me. They know that I am there for them to as well. Lately they have certainly been doing more of the supporting as life with 3 kids 5 and under can be busy - especially during those times when Serona is away and we have no family support nearby. Even just talking to them on the phone offers me the support that I need.

The kids ran around and played the morning away - Sirah seems so much older now that she is walking around the playground herself and I am now torn in three separate directions instead of the usual 2. Sirah loved the swings and kept trying to walk into the path of them - she was also trying to climb up a cement incline that to her must have been like climbing a mountain. She is such a good walker - but she looks so tiny.

We left our parktime a little early to make it to another friends birthday party. Rarely do we double schedule like this - but I wanted the kids to have the opportunity for both of these activities so we rushed a bit more than I like. The kids were a bit disappointed as other members of the homeschool group were going to the beach at the park to play in the water - but the promise of cake and painting had them more willing to head into the car and off to the birthday party.


August 4, 2004

** Cleaning Power Hour **

Today I felt like an example out of "Chores Without Wars" but I must admit that this is a rarity in my house - I often feel like I am fighting the endless battle of the tornado that follows my cleanup. However, today inspired by listening to one of the free phone seminars about being more organized I decided to give it a try.

I sat down with the kids and asked how they felt about the house - which was pretty chaotic and just needed a good pickup and here is what happened.

Me: What do you think about the house now - is it clean or messy.

Them: They said they thought things were very messy.

Me: Do you think we are being good stewards of what God has given us?

Them: No.

Me: What should we do?

Them: Maybe we could work together and clean.

Me: That sounds like a great idea. Where should we start? What room is most important to be cleaned?

Rhiannon: The upstairs living room.
Ciaran: The downstairs family/playroom
Mom: the kitchen

Rhiannon: Let's start with the room of the person who finds the timer first and we will set a timer and try to beat it.

Me: Okay if we work together and beat the timer than you can have a treat.

I found the timer first so we started in the kitchen. I asked what music they wanted and they settled on Vivaldi. I put it on and asked how long they thought it should take to clean the kitchen. Rhiannon said a half hour - I said 15 minutes - she really wanted a half hour (remember she wants that treat) so I compromised and said we will set the timer for a half hour and cover the kitchen and the dining room (planning in my mind to include the upstairs living room as all these rooms are open and together). She agreed and we started cleaning. The kids were very helpful. We managed to pick up and put away everything in the three rooms, sweep, vacuum, wash the counters and the floors and dust in all three rooms with about 30 seconds to spare. Ciaran helped me wash the floor for the first time and Rhiannon vacuumed for the first time. Roomba was vacuuming the bathrooms during this time. Then they each got to pick their treat. Rhiannon chose a cookie and Ciaran chose a popsicle. They went on the deck to eat them and enjoy a few minutes break. Then we headed downstairs.

Again I asked how long we would need for the family room. Rhiannon said 30 minutes. I said in 30 minutes we can do the whole downstairs - she said no we need an hour. I said "You want to clean for an hour?" they said yes. I said let's compromise and clean for 45 minutes and do the whole downstairs (family/play/schoolroom, library, office, laundry room, bathroom, hallway and stairs.

We finished all the rooms (except the bathroom) pickup, put away, dust, vacuum, and all the misc things we do down there in 30 minutes. I said since they were such huge helps (they really were) and had such a good serving spirit and the right attitude we would stop and I would finish the bathroom later. They each got two twizzlers. Then they had to sit in the library and read a book while I nursed Sirah.

It was an amazing hour and there were no tears, no fighting, no complaining and we really got a lot accomplished. I was very proud of the kids and appreciative of their help. I told them this and then said and you should be proud of yourselves to which Rhiannon replied. No mom I am not proud - I am humble. Every once in awhile a lesson comes back when you least expect it. Anyway it was a good day and reminded me of a few lessons I already knew but often forget with kids, especially when it comes to cleaning.

1. Our timer is our best friend.
2. Kids want to be involved with you and prefer helping you (even with cleaning) then doing something alone by themselves - they want the connection and interaction with you.
3. Kids need specific directions and tasks and they will meet them.
4. Kids crave and want order and structure and will help accomplish it.
5. A reward to a kid is often very small but can go a long way. Though I don't believe you should always use rewards as incentive.
6. It's so much friendlier with 2 (or 4 in our case) and the time passes much quicker.

There are days when I feel all I am doing is cleaning my house and I may make choices like - just watch this movie so I can get something done. In the end, usually, no one is happy. The kids feel ignored and perhaps like I am putting a clean house ahead of them, they are then grumpy and often follow me around making a mess, I get short because I just cleaned. I am the only one cleaning and it teaches them that I will pick up their messes and does not give them a sense of ownership of their mess and responsibility for cleaning it and caring for their things and it does not foster a family community.

The brief hour yesterday accomplished far more for our family than a nice clean house (though that certainly was a benefit). It brought us together as a family, it gave us time to chat and work together, it helped us work as a team to help care for each others things, it gave each person a sense of ownership and responsibility not towards themselves but towards the family. It showed my kids that they can do things and that it can be fun to work together. I got help instead of doing it all myself and it built foundations for the future and helped the kids see the responsibilities that go into running a household.

This is not the first time we have done this - but it is the first time I think I really realized the benefits of the process and the values and advantages in continuing it. For years I heard people tell me to have my kids help me even when it takes longer. I used to be really good about it - but lately I was so focused on getting the task done as quickly as possibly that I was leaving my kids alone so I could just get something done and it was making all of us unhappy.

I recommend an occasional cleaning power hour or 15 minutes or whatever you can do. Try it you may enjoy all the benefits I've mentioned and discover some more of your own.


The Juggler

No I am not talking about myself and my life responsibilities (though I often feel that way) I am talking about the show we went to see at our library today. We woke up this morning and had breakfast with our friends who slept over - the kids had some playtime this morning out in the yard - which mostly consisted of water, crickets, buckets and sand (what more can three young boys and one young girl ask for) and 4 messy kids.

When everyone was rounded up and cleaned our friends had to leave and we headed to the library for a juggling performance. The children enjoyed it - though according to them the magic shows were much better - I actually enjoyed this one more (but then again I am not 5 or 3). Their favorite parts of the show where when he juggled a baseball bat with devils sticks and balanced something on his nose and when he juggled a bowling ball. His demeanor was very good with the kids and he was enjoyable to watch.

After the show we headed over to get some books and the children's section was jam packed - as we have enough books at home I encouraged them each to just pick out a movie and we would head out and come back when it was not so crowded. I love the public library and we use it all the time - but I sometimes find the summers frustrating as the library can be very crowded and the shelves are often wiped out. This is a good thing I need to constantly remind myself. But part of me can't wait until everyone else goes back to school and we can get back into our own library routine. The good thing about the summer though is that most often the children and/or their parents are busy checking out books like Clifford and other TV in a book type books that they skip over and leave some of the great older gems that we enjoy like "Blueberries for Sal", "Make Way for Ducklings" and "The Little House" and other books that don't look as flashy but have great content, illustrations and lessons.

I must admit I am impressed with our local library. Though the children's section is not that large they have really worked on quality. Their children's storybooks are very good - I can almost always find any classic storybook that I am looking for - if it is not in I can reserve it and very rarely am I unable to find what I am looking for in terms of children's fiction. Their non-fiction section is not as extensive and I often find myself making trips to another county's library to get what I want. Thankfully we live in a great area for public libraries and I have so much at my fingertips.


August 3, 2004


We had a family come and stay over our house again this week. Serona was travelling as was the dad of this family so we got together. The kids played together and then wound down to Jonah: a veggie tales movie. We split them all up to sleep and the other mother and I had some time together. I gave her a breif computer tutorial on digital photography and online banking and then we started to watch a movie until we all fell asleep.

It was very nice to have the companionship and instead of being alone seperately it was nice for all of us to be together. I also love opening our home to company and having friends spend time here. It makes the evenings pass quicker as well.



I ordered the rest of our school supplies today. In my orders were:

Miquon Math: Annotations, Notes for Teachers, Red and Orange workbooks
Cuisenaire Rods
Bob Books Pals
Sound Box books by Jane Belk Moncure (now I only need 7 more to complete our collection)
The Well Trained Mind

The rest of my books are already here. I will also be using some or all of:

Charlotte Mason Companion
Christian Liberty Nature Reader
What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know
Story of the World
Phonics Pathways
Before I Dream Bible Storybook
ABC Bible Verses
Phonics Bible
Wee Sings Bible Songs
Drawing with Children

And of course the many books we have here and from the public library as well as our file folder games, flash cards, puzzles, and other hands on materials.


August 2, 2004

Trampolines and Friends

We spent the morning at a friends house. The kids enjoyed playing outside in their yard on their play sets and running through their yard. We enjoyed the fence as we could sit inside the house and watch the kids play from the comfort of the couch and the airconditioning while the little ones played on the floor nearby.

We had lunch together and just enjoyed each others company. I enjoy being with this family as I have watched the children grow up since the oldest was 3 months old and knew the younger two since they were days old.

These friends lent us their indoor trampoline as I asked if her kids enjoy it. She said they did and why don't I borrow it to see how my kids would feel about it. I did and my kids love it! They would not get off the thing. They are certainly jumping out energy as well as performing and using it as a stage and Sirah is practicing climbing up and down on it. I may have to consider getting them one - just wish they were not so expensive - even the little ones are quite pricey.

Well we will enjoy it while we have it and praise God for the generosity of friends.



Been having problems with the comment system - I think I finally got it fixed for posts here on out (but it won't work on previous posts). If you are out there and have something to say about a previous post feel free to comment here.



It appears we have moved beyond frog collection to crickets. The children have been collecting crickets every day for about a week now. One day they probably caught 20 plus between the two of them in our yard. I have been firm about not bringing them in the house, the last thing I want at night time. It passes the time for them and they do enjoy themselves. It allows me to stay inside with Sirah in the air conditioning or up on the deck with our screened shade room while they play outside and enjoy themselves. They enjoy bringing them up to show me and putting them in various collection jars or bags to examine them.

So far I have managed the summer without touching crickets, worms, frogs or anything of the like - though they have touched many. At first it took some stretching on my part to just let them be kids and examine and explore the world in such a hands on way - now I just accept it as a part of everyday life here.

Our summer hiatus is coming to a close as I start to pull things together for the school year - I think we will start mid September as we have a visit from the grandparents coming at the end of August and they always need a few weeks to get back to normal life after the joy of those visits.

So we will enjoy a few more days of summer, collecting crickets, jumpy guys, walks, bike rides to the library and of course reading before we settle into some more formal work.