March 31, 2007

Organized Chaos!

Also known as Ciaran's 6th birthday party. We had 14 kids between the ages of 3 and 8 playing board games for nearly 3 hours. The kids did really well, I was impressed with them and overall it was a fun and stress free time. It was busy and tiring and we could not have done it without the help of one of the other moms, Serona and I would have been seriously outnumbered. Still all in all it went well and Ciaran had a great time and my prayer was answered - no tears!

We had many different games out being played over the course of the time, the kids cycled through most of them. Here are some Zooreeka, Operation, Zitternix, Foosball, Zingo, Candyland, Parchessi, Chess, Guess Who, Toot and Otto, and Balloon Lagoon. We had games set up in two rooms at the tables and on the floor. We grouped the kids into teams and those teams were kind of fluid and changing throughout the time but were useful if we needed to quickly organize something or move kids to the next location. We set up in two main areas (upstairs and downstairs) and had several games all near one another so an adult could supervise several at a time. We had one adult upstairs, one downstairs and then a floater that moved between as needed. We set a timer for 15-20 minutes (though we did not strictly stick to it) and let the kids play the game for that length. Some of the longer games did not finish and we simply cycled more kids into the current games and had them pick up where the other players left off.

We had a really great group of kids that made this work nicely. We had a wide age range and both girls and boys (though the girls were really outnumbered) and they played well together in different combinations and age was never really an issue or even really apparent. They were even very including and patient with Sirah who is 3 and much younger than all of them. Sometimes the patience level of some of the kids was shorter than others with some of the games but they sort of naturally worked themselves into another game or kept occupied until we switched.

We had cake and ice cream of course and much to my surprise Serona's idea of heads up 7 up went over really well. In the future I would trim this party to 2 hours - 3 hours was just too much time for this age group and this type of party. But we survived and Ciaran had a blast and all the kids seemed to enjoy themselves.

Instead of goody bags we gave away books instead. Serona's great idea and it went over really well. Given the ages and wide ranging reading levels it was interesting to choose books. I picked some magic tree house books, and some leveled readers (like the I Can Read) series and set them out on the table. We had 20 books to choose from and 14 kids had to pick. I had them randomly draw numbers to go up to the table and pick their books. We also had some light up bracelets and sticky frogs. The books as a party favor went over really well with the kids, the parents and was easy to do. Highly recommend it.

Well I am exhausted! Off to recover. Peace, Tenniel

March 30, 2007

Star Wars Character Study

I have decided to teach a Star Wars Character Study class for our homeschool cooperative next fall. It will be geared for 5th graders and up with two levels of workload to choose from. I will focus on literary themes and let the kid each pick a character to apply the different themes to. Anyone ever do a class like this and have any great resources to point to? I plan to pull it all together myself but wondered if there is anything out there that anyone loves on this topic. Anyone know the name of this Jedi? Hint - she is who my costume is based off of - but not who my name is. Peace!

Ciaran's Bday

Each year on their birthday the kids get an opportunity to choose the meals and activities of the day. Ciaran recently turned 6 and for his birthday dinner he wanted Fruit Salad - that is all. A really nice and big fruit salad. I think it would have been cheaper to go out to dinner at the restuarant of his choice! Still some years they pick macaroni and cheese so there you go. So for dinner we had fresh fruit salad: pineapple, watermelon, canteloupe, apples, peaches, blueberries, strawberries, kiwi, and grapes. We also served Prima Donna Gouda cheese - my favorite Gouda which we had leftover from recently entertaining. It was delicious and wonderful this time of year, even if some produce was out of season and expensive.

For dessert we had Ninja Turtle cake - half chocolate/chocolate and half vanilla/vanilla - it came out quite well. Now for the predictable part we played video games all day. His first choice, going to the arboretum to find frogs was rained out so we stayed inside and played video games all day. I even played TMNT with him which made him excited.

He was excited for his birthday gifts and overall I think he had a great day. His friend birthday party is this weekend. We are doing something different from his usual frog party - which I am thankful for since it is supposed to rain all weekend. We are hosting a board game birthday party with a total of 14 kids including our own! Planning on having a fun time.

March 29, 2007

Five Year Glimpses

Some blogs I read have been posting five year glimpses into their lives and I thought I would do the same - it was interesting to me at least.

1974 - I was born, my husband was not yet :) I have no recollection but rumor has it my grandfather would kick my cradle so he could wake me up and hold me. I also apparently learned to walk by holding onto pretzel rods which along with cheese were my favorite foods. Some things never change - at least I can walk without them now. That is positive progress for 32 years :)

1979 - 5 years old - I started kindergarten and knew how to read. I lived in a very Italian neighborhood with a very Irish name and recall being made fun of for that name. I think it was around this time when after watching The Little Rascals I decided to make it snow in my bedroom by dumping detergent all over the room. Apparently I recruited my younger brother to help. Parents were obviously not pleased.

1984 - I was in 4th grade and moved to a new town and new school, same state. We moved into our first house and out of small apartments. I remember dressing up as Henry Hudson for a history project for class. I learned how to swim and ride a bike that year as well. It was a big year doing all that at once.

1989 - Freshman in high school. I went to an all girls Catholic high school. I was very into sports, academics, a tom boy and not very into girls as friends. Since we all wore uniforms they needed some way to compete so it was all about purses - perhaps that is part of my resistance to a purse even to this day.

1994 - Moved to the cornfields of Illinois after spending two years at a college in upstate New York. One of my first memories of this farming community was stepping out of the car and smelling manure for the first time and wondering if I had made a mistake. I spent nearly all my time debating and somehow managed to fit some classes in. I visited Ronald Reagan's birthplace, I was dragged there. At the time I was an avid liberal, an aetheist, a feminist and not interested in Reagan at all.

- Eight months pregnant and I walked the aisle to pick up my Masters degree - a few weeks later Rhiannon arrived. Eight weeks after she was born we moved to Georgia and I went through some serious culture shock. New mom, new state, no support,lots of bugs, heat and very different approaches to life and people - it was an interesting time. Still it was here we really settled into our attachment parenting style (not because it was common or popular there mind you) and God really worked on my heart about what it meant to be a wife and mother.

2004 - By now we have three kids. One year into our homeschooling journey and this blog. We moved into our current home in Minnesota and we formed our family hedgehog concept, and really tried to focus on living intentionally. We are in the middle of BUSY days with a 5, 3 and 1 year old, yet we campaigned heavily in this years election - feeling very passionate about it. I am now a Christian republican.

2007 - Okay so not a full five years from the last but to bring this post up to date. We still live in the same home (a miracle for us) and still have three kids - our only family addition was another dog. Still homeschooling and very active in the homeschool community, two are schooling now and one wants to be. Still blogging and reading all the time. We are finally out of diapers though still nursing, it has been over eight years of being pregnant and/or nursing consecutively now and it was 7 straight years in diapers! We survived and even enjoyed much of it, believe it or not!

So there you have it some peeks into my life, of course I left out all the bad stuff and the many years in between. Still you probably know way more about me than you may have ever cared to know. It was fun to do though and I encourage others to try the same and post it on your own blog. Peace

March 28, 2007

Robot That works

Roomba take four...We are now on our fourth model of Roomba, a robotic vacuum cleaner. Roomba is quirky and wonderful for our family, so far I must say this is the best one we have had. Roomba is not for everyone, he does not really get everything clean the way say a Dyson would - but he does get it done better than never doing it, which is an improvement for many.

The new Roomba we have - the Roomba Scheduler offers some major improvements and updates from the previous models that really are quite nice. The name says it all - you can program and schedule Roomba to clean for you - no joke. We left on Monday for our day at the park and returned to a nearly fully vaccumed living room and kitchen. Yes now you no longer need to remember to push the button to vacuum - once programmed Roomba will head off her base, vacuum, and return to base for charging. Very nice.

The second added feature is no more screwdrivers or tools required, period. The battery compartment on the walls even opens and closes without tools as does the brush compartments. This makes Roomba much more user friendly and enjoyable, a simple upgrade that makes a world of difference.

Additional new features: Roomba ships with extra brushes, cleaning tool and filter. The remote is actually useful and worthwhile and no longer are the clunky and unuseful wall mounts included. This model includes a light to indicate when your bin is full and requires emptying and it seems a bit quieter and larger. Overall these were much needed updates that really increase the user friendliness of Roomba.

We love Roomba and especially during muddy season where I can not keep up with the mud, dirt, rocks and everything else dragged in at a moments notice all day long. It is also shedding season for our two Aussies! Now our floors are vacummed/swept every day and I hardly do anything at all to accomplish this.

I recommend Roomba with hesitation though. The quirks and requirements of Roomba are not for everyone especially families with small kids. Your floors have to be really picked up - no wires, toys, or other odds and ends that Roomba can get stuck on. You have to accept and understand that Roomba takes a long time to vacuum a room (still Roomba does not take any of your time to do so) and follows strange unpredictable patterns (though after so many years - they are kind of predictable and understandable to me), Roomba does not vacuum to the depth of other traditional vacuum cleaners. I have no doubt if I ran a Dyson over my newly cleaned Roomba room Dyson would have more to pick up. Still my floors are cleaner than they would be with a Dyson because the Dyson requires me to use it every day - which simply would never happen.

Lastly Roomba breaks down, sometimes for no explainable reason simply stops working or spins in circles and does nothing else. To alleviate this concern I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you only purchase Roomba products through Hammacher Schlemmer or another store with excellent warranty and return policy. We have returned and exchanged models with no hassle whatsoever, where others who have purchased from say Target or Amazon have very different opinions - the extra money upfront is 100% worth it - buy from a place that will replace it if it breaks, because chances are high it might. Even with all the returns we have done over the years I love it and missed Roomba for the few months we went without him. Still there is nothing quite like coming home from a walk with the kids or sitting downstairs doing school while your robot is taking care of your floors. Meet the Jetsons....

The Man Purse

Okay 32 years I have resisted and now technology has dragged me over to the dark side and I concede I need a purse. We spent much of yesterday in stores for a variety of things and I actually really looked in the bag section and I was completely disappointed and disillusioned and convinced I have had it right for this long. Still summer is coming and I can not deny I really have too much stuff I carry with me regularly stuffed in my coat pockets and I do not always want to use the fanny pack that I do love.

Still I am convinced it is not a purse I need - it is a man purse, gadget bag or even a messenger bag. Really it is all my technology that is pushing me to consider carrying this at all. After bag diving for years now to find the thing I need mixed in with library books, kids books, diaper bag supplies, etc I think I am ready to move to some sort of smaller bag then my canvas grocery bags or my coat pockets.

Fashion rather than practicality seems to drive most women's handbags I have seen or maybe I do not have the same practical needs as most women. What I want to carry is my bulging wallet (from all our membership cards), my Blackberry (does not fit in most cell phone slots of women bags), my ipod, my digital camera and possibly our DVR. Note it is all technology. I would also like space enough to carry a brush (for our girls hair), a small paperback book (I wait a lot) and some tissues. That would be all I would need. The things I have in my pockets all year long. And something I can hook my keys onto - they of course are on a carabener.

Anyone else out there just need a purse for technology? Any great ones you use? I want easy and quick immediate access to my cell phone and wallet - am I asking too much? I think I am in now officially in the man purse market as a woman. Maybe it is Jack Bauer's bag I need.

March 26, 2007

We spent all day outside. Nature walks, nature notebook sketches, building tree forts, cracking ice, at the playground, at the park, in the creek and lots and lots of mud!

I took a similar picture of Rhiannon today sitting in a tree sketching her nature notebook picture. She was so peaceful and happy and I wish that tree was in our yard so she could always read there. It was a giant oak perfect for climbing and sitting in. A few weeks ago I sent a picture to my family of my kids laying on our kitchen table side by side doing their school work, now it was in a tree - have to love the non-traditional spaces we learn and live and play in. So thankful for being able to remind our kids we are learners in all spaces all through our lives.

This is my spirit too - in a tree, on a hike at the beach - I just love being in nature. I felt a part of me come alive and out of hibernation these past few weeks as the spring thaw has come. Yes I know it will get cold again before we are warm for good but I am going to take in all the sun and these long awaited moments after our winter. I am a nature mom. I love being outdoors exploring when it is warm and sunny. It does my spirit good to be outside in the sun.

I even let the kids get head to toe muddy and simply hosed down their shoes and sent them right to the bath as they got home. I hate mud but sometimes you just have to love it. Now as I type this Sirah is clean as a whistle wearing a red satin dress, white tights and a beautiful tiara dancing to my music. Quite a contrast to her mud caked Incredible Hulk and red checked pants she was wearing earlier covered to her elbows in mud. I am thankful she is both and slides so comfortably between the worlds.

Well the fresh air beckons again. Have a great day and take a moment to climb into a tree and think for yourself or at least let your kids do it.


We'll Be Outside...

Until November! Ahhhhh it is 75 in Minnesota and we are not coming indoors until we have to. Take care!

March 23, 2007

How Well Can You Spell?

Try this fun spelling test. The site has some cool spelling info as well.

Addictive Time Waster

Here is my latest time waster that I can't help but keep doing. So far my high score is only 1100 - anyone beat that? What a clever idea for them and fun for us. Well I suppose it is only fun for a certain type of person - namely a geek. Well if the shoe fits...

March 22, 2007

Plum Creek Lesson Plan Week Three

These are my discussion topics for our Plum Creek class for 2nd-4th graders. We have divided the book up into 6 class periods - so read about 6 chapters before each session and discuss them. Since we draw many of our questions and topics from The Prairie Primer I do not print out the full lesson plan but rather just the topics we discuss. Which is an invaluable resource if you want to teach a class like this. After the discussion time the kids enjoyed fresh biscuts and homemade butter and continued work on their nine-patch quilt pillow

13 - How did their Christmas celebration compare to ours? What do you think of theirs?

15 -Footbridge incident discussion - what happened, lessons about disobedience and slippery slopes. Discuss strategies for not falling into temptation.

James 1:13-15 13When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death

Strategies for not falling to temptation that leads to sin

1. Realizing it is wrong and admitting it to yourself
2. Realize that it is sin against God
3. Quickly saying no
4. Reciting scripture to ourselves – Jesus used scripture to rebuke the devil when he was tempted in the bible.
5. Not letting ourselves talk ourselves into it as something different
6. Quickly removing ourselves from the temptation

16 – Discussion of the building process of their home and how we move into our homes. What is different and the same. Discuss giving work a lick and a promise

18 – Wading in the creek - comparison of the creek at different seasons. Discussion of the various animals and creatures they discover. Talk about upcoming attending school

March 21, 2007

Small Victories

There are some things I have really been trying to work on lately and today had some positive results for a change.

1. Floor Play with Sirah - I used to love being on the floor playing blocks, games, puzzles, etc with little ones. Over the years I have found my desire and patience to do so has decreased. I still play with Sirah but differently. I have been trying to really get down on the floor with her more. Today we had a tea party on the living room floor and she made me lovely treats and tea, pop, and fruit punch. It really was a positive memory to be treasured and a reminder of why I need to be down on the floor with her before she no longer wants to play like that.

2. Arts and Crafts time - I don't like it - I never have and I am not yet convinced I ever will but I have felt convicted to let them have more arts and crafts time. They have painted twice in a week and got to make free crafts with glue and such this week - that is a HUGE improvement over the time they usually get and it was not that bad. Okay washing all the tempera paint supplies and cups was but the rest was not too bad. I especially enjoy watercolors - they could do those every day now that they have real watercolor paper that absorbs rather than runs.

3. The Mud Battle - I hate mud and kids and dogs love it! Not good for me since I am seriously outnumbered with 3 kids and 2 dogs. The winter thaw is thus not my favorite time of year. I am especially unhappy with my crazy mud loving dogs at this time of year. So I alternate between going on strike and being hyper about it. The amount of dirt I swept up off my entry way floor tonight is truthfully embarrasing - but at least I finally did it. Looking at it I would think it was over a month of dirt but sadly just a few days. I finish cleaning the floor only to let my dogs and their muddy paw prints back into the house. It just feels like a futile battle. The victory was the decision to sweep and clean the floor even knowing it was going to look terrible in a few moments again. The second victory was ordering our new Roomba which does help keep me saner during this time of year. Our old one broke and I was waiting it out but we miss Roomba and a new one is on its way, hooray!

Small victories I know - but hey you have to be proud of something :)

Useful Websites

Here is a list of useful websites I put together for my support group's curriculum fair night. I have often quoted and listed these here. PLEASE add any ones you really love and use in the comments section. Thanks!

Ambleside Online
A free online Charlotte Mason styled curriculm divided by grade level. We use the art, music and nature study lesson plans as our guide. They also have many great links to free ebooks, including some tough to find classics.

Letter of the Week
A free online preschool curriculum based around studying one letter per week. Excellent ideas, resources and suggestions for lessons based around letters. Site is also expanding to include country and science of the week.

Grade Specefic Skill Builders
This is a website that has excellent games, links and skill builder websites for math, language arts, science and social studies. We have used many of the K-2nd grade links and enjoyed them.

Enchanted Learning
This is an optional membership site. To get all the privelages of the site you need to pay 20 per year. This has been my best 20 spent each year as their printables are far better and more comprehensive than others. I use this site atleast several times a week.

Excellent resource for preschoolers and early readers. Fun phonics related games, books and lessons. My kids have enjoyed this site ages 2-7.

Ben's Guide to Government
Simplistic and fun but realistic depiction of US social studies and how our government works

Google Images
This is a search engine just for images and pictures. Type your search term in and receive thousands of pictorial responses. You can also easily switch to the google search engine to find out more general resources.

Google Earth
A free downloadable satellite image tool that allows you to see satellite images of places throughout the world. You can also get a sense of how far countries are from each other and see such detail that you may find your own backyard. Great geography tool and fun as well.

Rhiannon's favorite math game

This is a silly but fun way to build in speed math drills for younger kids. Watching a chameleon kickbox for each answer they get right with the time clock getting shorter each round is fun!

I Know That

An interactive website for all subjects. I especially like their science lab games and their math games.

A Kids Heart
This is where I get all my free manuscript printouts. They also have other teacher printouts, some lesson plans and ideas for younger children.

Many free printable crafts and sheets, including bible activities - for the preschool to early elementary ages.

Learning Pages
Create and print free and custom worksheets on a variety of subjects. Registration is required but is free.

Educational Press
Print and create games, worksheets, puzzles and more on a variety of subjects and grade levels. Takes a bit of getting used to but then easy to use.

Yet another puzzle and worksheet maker. Play around and find the one you like the most. They serve different purposes and I use them all for different things.

PBS Teacher Source
As with all things on PBS use your own discretion when following lesson plans and ideas here. There are some gems in here but you may have to wade through some junk too. Often lesson plans will coincide with shows seen on PBS.

History Channel Study Guides
Like many other educational TV stations lesson plans are offered to correspond to shows past and present.

Discovery Lesson Plans
Searchable index by age and topic for a wide variety of lesson plans. Written by and for teachers these lesson plans outline supplies and many details as well as future followup.

National Geographic Creature Feature
A very fun interactive way to learn about wide variety of animals. Includes video and sound clips as well as interesting facts about each animal. The whole NG for kids site has more resources available as well.

There are many other resources but this should give you a good start.

March 18, 2007

Playlist for Rhiannon

As I type this I am putting the finishing touches on a CD for Rhiannon. This is based off of some of her favorite songs and some songs with special meaning for us.

I Can't Wait - Sara Groves
Fatou Yo - Toure Kunda
Little Bitty - Alan Jackson
Help Pour out the Rain - Buddy Jewel
When New York Was Irish - Andy Cooney
Awesome God - Rich Mullins
I Want to Know You - Serengeti Trek
Let Us Pray - Serengeti Trek
Star Girl - Serona
No Matter What - Beauty and the Beast
My Little Girl - Tim McGraw
Prayers for this child - Sara Groves
Must Be Done in Love - Serengeti Trek
Station Wagon - Sara Groves
Have I Told You Lately That I Love You - Van Morrison
Jesus Take the Wheel - Carrie Underwood
More Love, More Power - Serengeti Trek
More Than You'll Ever Know - Watermark
Fireflies - Faith Hill
A Lot Like Me - Sara Groves
She's a Butterfly - Martina McBride
Small Piece of You - Sara Groves
In My Daughter's Eyes - Martina McBride
Wish for You - Faith Hill
May There Always be Sunshine - Sarah Pirtle

March 16, 2007

Parents blogging kids

A week or so ago I read this post on Parenting Blogs Respect Your Kids’ Privacy and this article on Cnet . I think the authors makes a great point and one that we all need to be reminded of. I ask my kids now before I post things about them and ALWAYS before I post their work. I have tried to limit the amount of negative posting I have done about any of them or about our family in general. Part of what gives off the image of "superhero" over here.

Since Sirah actually has the above shirt - I am sensitive to this. I also often wear an "I'm blogging this" shirt myself. I asked Rhia if she wanted a shirt like this and she rolled her eyes at me and said that sometimes she wishes we were just normal and not bloggers. Of course she then also asked me that same week if she could begin blogging herself. When they were younger I shared more but I guess right around age 6 or so I started asking them - when it seemed they cared and I have tried to respect that. Sometimes when discussing the way I handle something myself I suppose I am inherently revealing details about them as well.

I think it is a good thing for people to think through and to remember why they decided to blog in the first place. For me I started blogging so I could share some details about our family with family throughout the country, so I had a sort of written history of our days for the kids in the future, and so I had a place to keep all the lessons and ideas that were useful to me. My blog has evolved over the years and is continually changing. I am now at the point where I have people who know me in real life that read it as well as people who do not know me in real life. We are at the point where some of Rhia's friends parents read my blog though none of her friends do yet or for awhile I hope!

I have met people who later discover they have read my blog and suddenly they know a whole lot more about me then I about them. Or they have an image in their mind of what my life is - but that image is based soley on my blog and I have news for you - you don't see my whole life in this blog as much as it may seem like it. But that all comes with the territory. It is weird when it happens though.

I do think respecting the privacy of those we know in real life is important, especially our children and spouses. I guess in some ways I am protective in what I share and blog about - of course I am not always and you can read about some of our flaws and funny and not so funny moments here as well. But I do think through "Would I be okay if my kids read this?" before I post and if I change my mind later I delete it. As they get older I ask them before I post - interestingly the thing they are most sensitive about posting is their art work or I would probably share more of it.

So just a reminder to all those family bloggers out there if you have not thought through these issues yet (which I am guessing most of you have) take some time to think them through. Decide if you want to discuss it with your children, and you and your spouse should be in agreement with each other about what to share and not share about your family. It is a big web and it is true that you never know who will stumble across your blog and then stumble across you. Or who knew you in the past and now finds you again through the web. Or how many people you know in real life read your blog and don't tell you about it (which has also happened to me). Respect your family privacy.

March 15, 2007

Narration on Magellan

Magellan was a man who like Christopher Columbus wanted find the cost of India. He set sail on some ships, his people on the ship fell sick with scurvy and begged him to go back for there was very little water and hardly any food at all. He refused to go back when he had come so far. Magellan never found the route to India as he had set out to do. He was the first man to sail all the way around the world. During his journey he named an ocean he crossed the Pacific which means calm.

Magellan never actually made it around the world, just his ships did. But people just call it that he was the first one because it is easier to say that. He did not make it because he was killed in a battle in the Philippians with local warrior tribes. His ships carried on without him with only 35 men still aboard the rest of the ships had been drowned, lost or turned back. The last ship finally returned to Spain without Magellan aboard.

March 14, 2007

March 13, 2007


Warning to all readers, I feel myself stepping up on a soapbox now so you are forewarned.

For awhile my email signature has been:

"It's our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
-Albus Dumbledore

I have had a wide variety of signatures over the years and often I don't have a signature at all. Every once in awhile though there is just a consistent message I feel like sending the world I guess. Right now it is about choices and how we all have them to make, and how our choices influence and show who we are.

Last night Serona and I were having a deep philosophical conversation about fundamental ontology and other things on our date. It went on throughout the course of the evening and on the drive home I mentioned to him that "When you get right down to it, our choices determine who we are far more than any innate abilities we have." Which I fully acknowledge is a rewording of my sig line. I also know it is not popular to say to some philosophy students. At that point we were talking about people who are inspiring and people who are looked up to. There usually is nothing truly unique and special about them, it is more honestly a collective combination of the choices they have made over the course of their lives. I suppose the special part is that they were disciplined and focused enough to make consistent choices that led them to become the person they are. I love reading presidential biographies and biographies of successful people because you get a glimpse at this very thing, seeing the collective choices and behavior they made through their lives.

There are times when we get that as homeschoolers. The whole "I could never do that" or the supermom stuff that comes along with that. Still there is really nothing special about us that makes us uniquely able to do the things we do. Other than the fact that we have made the choices to do so and the choices necessary to make it work. And that is not unique or a part of our innate makeup - it is just a choice that we consistently make. Also those positive choices we make affect other choices we don't. Remember there are reasons not to be my kid too.

We all face lots of choices every day. Everyone does and some of them we think about and many of them we do not. Yet when we realize that the continual build-up of our choices is creating the person we are becoming should we not take more care with some of our choices. Being more intentional in the things we do? I suppose it depends on where you are headed but really thinking through your choices and where they are leading you can generally only be a good exercise and habit to get into.

There is nothing special about me or what I am doing here or in my home that someone else can not chose to do themselves. Many may not want to do what I am doing or want to make the choices it requires to do so - just as I may not want to make their choices. Still we need to let each other off the hook and realize that saying "I could never be x" is not an honest statement (with rare exceptions) it is rather "I choose not to be x".

The importance of this is we can no longer give easy excuse for the things we don't do by simply saying we can't do them. We assume responsibility for our choices and our actions that we choose not to do those things. Not that we are called to do them, or even that we should, but to pretend we simply can't provides us an easy excuse and leads us to not be intellectually honest with ourselves.

I get asked about reading to our kids a lot. About when we find time to do so. We choose to do it, that is all there is. We make the choice to read each day. We make the choice to do it instead of something else. Where do we find time to play games, we choose to. Sure this inherently means we are making the decision to forgo other things as well.

More and more I realize it is not a question of "How do you do x?" because the answer simply is we do. The question really is "What leads you to make those choices above others?" So the next time you want to think you can not do whatever it is you are impressed someone else is doing remind yourself it is not likely that you can not do it yourself but rather you make other choices that right now prevent that from being an option for you. Realize I am using present tense - right now, that does not in any way mean that can not change.

My FIL is a pastor and conversation after conversation with him about a wide variety of issues comes back to the same two things. Change requires discipline and the Nike slogan of "Just Do It" really is true. There is no magic pill, there is not typically a justifiable excuse. We have lots of "yes buts...." but none of them can really avoid us accepting responsibility for our choices. If we want to affect change in our lives we need to look at our choices and bring our choices in line with our goals and desires. Then we can be intellectually honest with ourselves and accept responsibility for both the choices we make and the ones we do not.

There is no real benefit to come from fooling ourselves into thinking people are inherently better than us or can accomplish things we never can. We need to admit that we chose not to make choices and be okay with that fact. Each of us is walking a unique path and we are not all called to be the same or accomplish the same things and we need to be okay with that. Also always remember we are only seeing glimpses of each other, only seeing what we choose to show each other. We never see the whole picture. We never really see the messy floors, the anger, the house of cards finances or all the other flaws that people don't talk about when we see their shining moments. That is okay - but we need not fool ourselves into believing anyone is a superhero that no one can ever be like. Then take responsibility for the choices we are making as well as the choices we are not making and remember that when you get right down to it, our choices determine who we are far more than any innate abilities we have.

So improve the things you want to and accept responsibility for the ones you choose to not fully develop and be okay with the choices you are making. Just my .02 and I am stepping off my soapbox now.


March 8, 2007

On Demand Curriculum

Last night at dinner Serona and I were discussing some curriculum for next year and reviewing some of the modifications we have made to this years in the middle of the year. Serona made a comment that really resonated with both of us. He said "I am so thankful that we can make on demand curriculum choices."

How true that is and how different from traditional school settings. We got about halfway through the year and realized that Rhiannon's math program was getting too intense for her and was way beyond what she needed to know so we made an adaptation and changed curriculum. We plan to return to the original one sometime next fall most likely but we were able to adapt in the middle of the year to meet her needs.

Ciaran is learning to read and we are even more on demand in this area. While I have a traditional phonics program for him in Phonics Pathways and we have the whole Bob books series we realized that these were just not lighting his passion for reading. What we discovered was two fold. First Ciaran needs to feel confident and second he needs to feel rewarded for his progress in tangible and immediate ways.

So we discovered the Primary Phonics series - which we used briefly with Rhia when she was learning. Well this really connects with him - he likes the 16 page stories and the fact that he can read all the words unassisted and each book works on a single new rule at a time giving him time to work through that and master the skill. So rather than pushing through the Phonics Pathways book with him we are working through the individual reader and teaching the rule he needs to get through the next book. Then he has lots of practice in ways he enjoys on just that one phonics rule and reviewing others he already knows. No more saying "well that word is different because... or well that word is really hard ... or no the rule does not apply to this word" All of those phrases were really frustrating and discouraging to him and his learning style. So we no longer use library Level One readers - as there are always too many exceptions. He is much more confident and enjoys reading more now.

The other important part of this for him is tangible and immediate rewards. His favorite pastime right now is playing Gamecube video games. So for every half hour he reads he gets to play 15 minutes of video games. It is not immediate in the sense that he reads for 30 minutes and then plays for 15 minutes. Rather he knows he can not play until he is done reading for the day and I say it is time to play but his game time is limited by the amount of time he read that day. It also helps keep the constant reminder for him that reading is more important than the video games.

In the age of on demand movies and television why not have on demand curriculum? Google provides this as well as many times an inquisitive little mind asks a question and determines our lesson plans for the day found through Google and the wonderful resources available online and at our local library. Just one more benefit to homeschooling.

Uplift Yourself and Others

My dear MIL sent me an interesting email yesterday, it read:

Describe me in one word... just one single word. Send it to me only. Then send this message to all of your friends and see how many strange & interesting things they say about you. This is really telling.

Here's how:
1. Hit the reply key and send me, my one word.
2. Then return to this message, and forward it to your friends (Including me) and see what people say about you, when limited to only one word!!!Should be interesting...

Well I did and the results have been encouraging and uplifting. Try it with your friends and family. But be ready with your one word for each of them. It is tough to limit it to just one word and to find an accurate word to describe your friends and family. Encourage and uplift one another.

March 7, 2007

Ciaran's Frog Painting

Sirah Self-Portrait Age 3

Rhiannon's Landscapes

Sunset on the Ocean

House with Apple Trees

Rhiannon's Fairies and Girl

Weekend Retreat

This past weekend I had a lovely mom's retreat with a great group of women from our homeschool support group. We rented a cabin on a lake up in Northern Minnesota at a resort that included a wonderful Aveda Spa. We drove up north on Friday through the remainder of the snow that dumped on us (over the two weekends we have well over 2 feet of snow total) and blew the snow around. We arrived safely though three cars of women for a total of 10 lovely ladies and enough food to keep us going for over a week!

Friday night was a nice time of unpacking and getting settled in. We had a chili dinner and lots of yummy appetizers. We all joined in a rowdy game of Taboo and learned a bit about each other during the process. People then naturally split into groups that were following their interests. A few tried to go to bed early though we realized the walls were thin and we probably kept them up nearly all night. A few others joined in quiet places for intimate conversations. One group spent the evening watching Pride and Prejudice. I joined a group playing the card game Hearts and sharing stories from our lives. The last group headed to bed around 2am.

Saturday was a full day for many of us. A nice breakfast started the day as people got up at different times and helped themselves. I headed out for an early morning walk with a group of ladies which was refreshing but a bit chilly through just my jeans. We made a stop in the lodge for some coffee and warm up time by the fire before heading back to the cabin. We had some quiet time in the cabin and then I headed out again with another group of ladies for a horse drawn carriage ride - pulled by Clydesdale horses through a wooded snowy path - beautiful! Another group headed out for some cross country skiing and others were taking walks again.

Then it was time for my afternoon spa appointment. We all had different times and were arriving and leaving the spa at different times. They had a lovely relaxation room where we were able to sit around in robes and chat while we relaxed before or after our services, a sauna and everything you needed for showers and getting ready. I had a lovely 1 hour deep tissue massage that was wonderfully relaxing. I was truthfully being spoiled with the weekend.

Headed back to the cabin for another evening of fellowship and fun with my friends. There was good food and drink and lots of interesting conversations. Several went out to dinner though many of us stayed in to enjoy the many wonderful appetizers we had here. My dinner was made up of wonderful cheeses, veggies and fruit with a few other appetizers thrown in. A large group of us headed downstairs to watch the movie Calendar Girls while another group stayed upstairs to watch One Night with the King. Personally I think the movie Calendar Girls is a hoot and is fun to watch with a group of girlfriends. I started to not feel well and headed to bed early.

The next morning people went to spa appointments, skiing, walks, or just lounging around the cabin relaxing and enjoying our food. I slept in late and joined the group shortly before our service time together. We all joined in the living room for a mini service. We sang worship songs together and one woman shared some bible verses and we shared things on our heart at the time as women, wives, mothers and homeschoolers. One woman shared a beautiful testimony she had put together for her church service about how her home is her sacred space. It was touching and powerful and inspiring. We then shared prayer requests and prayed together for an extended period and closed with worship songs again. It was a special precious time where we drew together not just as friends but as Christian sisters. There were many tissue boxes being passed around our little circle of friends. What a powerful way to bring closure and transition back into our homes from our weekend away.

Each woman there was a gift to the others - each one blessed me in a special way and I am thankful for the time apart we had. Time to draw close to one another, time to laugh and let our hair down, time to have fun, time to cry, to share, to reminisce and to hope for the future. Time to share our stories and our lives with each other. Mostly we just had a lot of fun and it was really great to see each other in that context free from other responsibilities and worries if just for a few short days. Friendships were formed and strengthened, individuals were refreshed and inspired and ready to return anew to our families. Memories were made and time was cherished.

Thanks to all you wonderful ladies and I encourage everyone to take time away to enjoy their friends and to take care of themselves for just a few days.


March 6, 2007

Updated Reading Lists

Here are our updated reading lists for February and the year. The individual child lists are for the entire school year they were started and regularly updated since September. I do my best to keep track of all our reading but books slip through the cracks, especially our family storybook read alouds.

February 2007 Read Aloud List
Rhiannon Second Grade Reading List
Ciaran's Kindergarten Reading List

Need Inspiration

This is a nice short video clip that reminds us all about the unique gifts of each child and how to encourage rather then quash them. Take a few minutes to watch it and remember the benefits of homeschooling.

Animal Paths

March 1, 2007

Mall Scavenger Hunt List

We did our annual Mall of America scavenger hunt and it was a great success again this year. We had two divisions: K-3 and 4th grade and up. Each division had three teams and they all worked off the same list. They had exactly one hour to get as many pictures of their items as they could. The rule was all team members needed to be in each picture and they got extra points for doing each one in height order and for creativity. Final results are not yet in as I await photos. Thought I would share the list we worked off - it is slightly modified from my previous list if anyone has used that one.

This list is pretty Mall of America specefic given the items there but you could easily modify it for your own local mall by taking out some things and adding in others. I tried to make the list so they would need to be in as few stores as possible - with MOA that is easy as there is so much open space. Anyway Enjoy and feel free to email me with any questions.


Mall of America Scavenger Hunt List
10 points
___Jango Fett from Star Wars
___all on an escalator
___in front of a fountain
___a big fish tank
___an airplane (not military one)
___all stuffed into a photo or song booth
___a bird
___lily pad
20 points
__wearing a funny piece of clothing (everyone in hats, boa scarves, etc)
__some people (more than one) you do not know waving with you
__doing a superman pose with Superman
__a janitor doing his/her job
__playing an instrument (only one person needs to)
__a store clerk with you (can not also count as person you do not know or janitor)
__a military plane
__red white and blue star – think MOA logo
30 points – only one winner each category per division – if the same item is selected judge will make final decision based on creativity
__up on a stage doing a funny pose (funniest pose wins)
__Biggest real food item
__the biggest balloon
__the biggest dinosaur you can find
__with the funniest sign you can find
__the tallest Lego tower you can build
__the tallest structure you see in the mall
__the largest stuffed animal you can find
__the biggest car you can find
__largest photo/painting of a movie star
__store with the longest name
__the most interesting picture with an item you decide (write what it is here__________)

50 points __ The baseball seat from Metropolitan Stadium that commemorates a 520 foot home run hit by Harmon Killebrew on June 3, 1967
-hint it is mounted on a wall 520 feet from home plate - “Run Forrest Run”
(75 points if you have pictures of both the seat and home plate with your team)

Extra Notes – to be used by judges only but you should read!
+2 points for every picture you are in height order.
-10 points every minute late!!!!!
Please write your team name on your sheet as well as your team letter
Please number your entries in the order you take the pictures


Well we have been enjoying our foot of snow from last week and we are now getting another foot-18 inches today!!! We have already shoveled our driveway twice, once last night and I just got in from an hour of shoveling which did not even include our sidewalks! The snow is still really coming down and schools are even starting to close early.

Time to stay home and read, play games, and play outside in the snow some. Think dinner is going to be soup and bread something I don't need to babysit much since I will be shovelling again in a few hours I am sure. Enjoy your day.