March 30, 2009

Happy BIrthday Ciaran

Ciaran is 8 years old and we had a great birthday party! 8 little boys here for a baseball game, Mario Kart Wii, Star Wars Monopoly, Lightsaber battles, marshmallow spitting contests, and watching the Phantom Menace. They had such a great time and were so good!

For his birthday we bought him fire bellied toads - he has wanted a frog or toad since he was 3 years old. We told him he could have them when he was 8 honestly thinking he would no longer want them. Well here we are with 2 fire bellied toads added to our family number. He was so excited he could not stop hugging us. He literally ran from one to the other back and forth for a few minutes just so very thankful. He also received a lot of great little boy gifts that he can hardly wait to use, water guns, scooter, legos, skateboard and an eyeclops among others, he was so blessed and so very thankful.

For the first time ever one of my kids seemed sad to be getting older. He just kept telling us "I will never be 7 again" on the verge of tears. We were baffled by this reaction but he simply loved being 7, it was his favorite age and a great year and he will miss it. Interesting guy my Ciaran.

Baseball is around the corner, he can hardly wait to find out his team and start practice. Of course we are expecting a snowstorm tonight so the white stuff may be on the ground again, last year it cancelled opening day once and then snowed on our second opening day. Only in Minnesota does baseball range from 20 degrees to 98 degrees. I don't know which is worse, but I will vote for the cold, snow and freezing rain. Why we don't wait to start until late May is beyond me.

Ciaran is a sweet boy, he has such a generous heart and spirit and is so giving and loving. He is especially tender with me and for the past few months just runs up to me to give me big hugs and climbs on my lap to snuggle still. Of course he also enjoys playing Monopoly, Risk, Wii games and doing anything outdoors. He really is going through the growing out of a little boy stage but I love where he is right now and will hold on to it as long as it lasts. Enjoying his hugs and tenderness and desire to simply be near to me.

He is looking forward to summer when the frogs return, he can swim all day, skate, scoot, bike, play ball and have water fights. I am looking forward to the freedom of those days too. We are hard at work here now trying to finish up school so we have the freedom to start our summer earlier. We typically finish school in early May enjoying one of our favorite months in MN school free, May and September are hands down the best time to be in MN, no bugs, perfect weather just wonderful days for being outside and hiking and loving God's creation.

Ciaran had a great year - he became a proficient swimmer, learned baseball for real and found a passion for it, he got better at biking, scooting, skateboarding and roller blading, he became very creative with Lego's and K'nex and he still loved frog hunting, and geocaching. He improved in school and really advanced in his reading, books he recently read include: Prince Caspian by CS Lewis and Coraline by Neil Gaiman. We have watched his faith develop and him flourish in his bible verse memory. He grew more protective of his sisters and even took a punch in the nose for one of them as he defended her. Mostly though he had a wonderful fun and busy year filled with all the things that make a little boy's life fun and interesting.

I am thankful to be his mother and even though some days I am exhausted from his nearly endless energy he fills my days with joy and laughter, smiles and tenderness and that more than makes up for the challenges along the way. I love you Ciaran thanks for being such a special little boy.

March 24, 2009

Time to Be Mom

One of the unique struggles of a homeschool parent is finding time to just be mom or dad as well as teacher. In my mind after I have spent the better part of my day with my kids doing things like reading, math, science, history, art projects, home economics, PE and handwriting I am ready for a break. The thing is my kids are not ready for a break from me, they are in fact ready to spend time with their mom and have simply felt they have been with their teacher for the past few hours.

This took me a little while to figure out and I am still trying to figure out how best to meet their needs without overstretching myself as well. Realizing that they do need to just cuddle on the couch with me, play a board game, bake cookies or simply talk and spend time with me is important. I have to learn to build in times for this in our daily life. In addition it is true that I need some down time and alone time to recharge myself and also get done the work and responsibilities like house cleaning, cooking, laundry, bill paying, volunteer work, writing, appointments and the small details that make our household run.

Lately while acutely aware of my need to balance these roles I find myself at a loss for a successful method to do so with. How do I be homeschool teacher, household COO, wife, mom and keep my sanity? For many years now I have just been juggling all the balls in the air and living according to the tyranny of the urgent, dealing with what needs to be done as it arises. But as my laundry piles into 12 loads, packages go unmailed for several weeks, I can't find time to call loved ones on the phone, I have not taken sanity time for myself, and my kids and husband feel like they never spend time with with just me I am realizing there must be a saner way. There must be a way to better manage and balance all of these roles and still be just one person.

I have significantly cut back on my computer time which has helped. I put an internet timer on each computer I use and it tracks my minutes online. This has been a good reminder and accountability tool for me. I try to avoid using the computer as much as possible during school time. Allowing myself a short time in the morning before school, some at lunchtime and then after all our other responsibilities are done. Yet many of my jobs use the computer too so I am also trying to limit my free or fun time on the computer since my kids see me use it so much already for things I need to do as part of my job of household COO and homeschool mom, not to mention volunteer work I do. While this helps it also leads me to feel like I am limiting myself so much that I am not meeting my needs either.

Some of this is because we are coming out of a long cooped up winter here in Minnesota and everything gets better as the sun comes out and the weather warms up. Still it is reality right now and for my kids sake I need to make time to just be mom. To cuddle and love them, to listen to and encourage them, to play games and be silly with them, to have time that is not about me telling them what to do next whether it be school, chores, sports practice, or enforcing reading times. My kids need to be able to remember that part of me too. I worry that they are going to grow up and just think of me as a drill sergeant or a teacher they either loved or hated. How do veteran moms balance this? How do you still be mom, and how do you enjoy that time without thinking about all the other things that need to get done?

Off to be mom, read some books and play some Wii.

March 18, 2009

Where's my head again?

Every once in awhile I really over schedule our lives without even realizing what is happening until I am in the thick of it and can not turn back. We are smack in the middle of one of those weeks! It creeped up on me, I committed to things one at a time even after checking my schedule and seeing the other items there. It was not the calendar as much as it was a lack of planning and lack of honesty with myself about what exactly was involved and how much time each thing would take and more importantly how they would interact with each other.

Monday was our first glorious day of the year. We still managed to complete a very full school schedule, doubling up in anticipation of the rest of the week. Then we took a long walk outside and ran errands at the same time, had an easy quick dinner, bedtime and then my moms bible study. It was a good day the kids even built outdoor forts on our deck and did school outside.

Tuesday was St. Patrick's Day and we added in some Ireland and St Patrick history study on top of subjects, it only comes once a year and we are very Irish. We listened to Irish music and cleaned and cooked and did party prep. The kids also had their regular weekly art class, when the party started I wondered how many hours there were in a day? I did enjoy myself and was able to relax some even with playing the role of hostess. Still it was another long and full day and I crawled into bed entirely too late for the second day in a row.

Today began with a late start, dropping Serona at work and heading to the Mall of America for our annual Scavenger Hunt. This year the group size was small, just two groups. The kids had a good time and we stayed for lunch as well. After running around the mall for an hour looking for various things and taking crazy pictures I was tired but somehow their energy level seemed even higher. We got home and I gave them an hour outside while I caught up on bills and emails then we resumed work on our homeschool fair projects. It was then I started to feel the pinch and realize I had done this too myself and had no one to blame.

Each of the kids is doing a seperate project and I thought it would not be a huge deal and left the bulk of the work until this week, they had done much of their research and planning already all that was left was putting the boards together and some supply gathering. I did not realize that given their ages 9, almost 8 and 5 they were all going to require my help for a lot of what they did. Maria had done all of the research on her own but needed help with sizing font, text formatting and figuring out how to best fit all her information in a logical and aesthetic way. Ciaran needed help with typing, deciding what to include, teasing out his ideas and putting it all together and Sirah needed help with nearly everything she did. It was a busy day for all of us and they all seemed to want me at the same time. We worked on it straight for about 3 hours until dinner and then heading to church. Everyone made great progress but no one is finished and the fair is tomorrow night. This means tommorrow will be regular school work, finishing this and then heading to the fair. I am thinking a crock pot meal will work best, hope I have what I need here since a trip to the store is not in the plans for tomorrow.

Friday somehow I managed to get myself in another overburdened schedule. I have set up, clean up, snacks and am teaching all three hours of homeschool cooperative! Another early morning after another long night. All of these things are good things, all of them are worthwhile and good for my kids and none of them individually would be too much, even a few in this week would be fine. It was more the combination of them all together, trying to coordinate driving schedules with Serona and getting everything done well. Not to mention cleaning, laundry and meals.

I fully acknowledge this was a me problem, this was a poor planning problem but now I am in the thick of it and tonight - the night before the homeschool fair I am out looking for a shadow box for mice bones from an owl pellet and a stuffed owl. After running to more stores than I care to recall we found both and we have checked off the last of the supplies needed for tomorrow. Thankfully Maria had all the rocks, minerals and gems she needed here for her project and Ciaran has more frogs then anyone can imagine. No live animals are allowed and he does not have his yet, though a new pet addition to our family is not likely long off in the future.

I need to remind myself to avoid the problem of good and plan more sanely next time.

March 11, 2009

Kids projects

The kids presented their semester long Astronomy projects this week. Each student created a slideshow presentation utilizing Google Docs Slideshow software (similar to PowerPoint). They did a fantastic job of doing their own research, image gathering, slide development and then presenting it to an audience. Very proud of the work they accomplished in just 2nd and 4th grade. It was fun to teach them the technology and watch the way they made their projects their own.

For science we are studying Geology now and we just began our Science in a Nutshell rock and mineral kit. For rockhound Maria she could not have found a more interesting topic, Ciaran is a bit less convinced and has been working along reluctantly so far. For texts this semester we are just emptying the local library of all childrens books related to the topics we are studying. Also getting ready to start our botany study at the arboretum, this year we will follow the life cycle of an apple tree.

By the end of the year it seems science and history will once again top their list of favorite subjects. For history the younger two are studying about ancient Rome and learning about how elephants were used for soldiers. I am continually amazed at how much Sirah picks up and remembers at just age 5. The other day she told me about Phillips son Alexander the Great and about the caste system in ancient India. Maria is moving into more modern history and just finished up the end of the slave trade and is ready to move into her last book of Story of the World.

Programs like Digging for the Truth, Rough Science and MythBusters seem to also further their interest in these subjects as do all the museums and hands on activities we tend to do. I am looking into finding a year of science experiments for next year, a nice pre made kit with everything I could possibly need to do 4 experiments a month for the year? Any great experiences or ideas?

March 2, 2009

A good week

Last week felt like a great homeschool week. We went on nature walks, visited the nature preserve, did some sketching, hiking and even some sledding. The kids were very interested in history and science and book work went off fairly well with the usual groans about handwriting or math depending on the assignment.

Some highlights. They learned to use Google SketchUp which they were very excited for and made a few first 3d sketches each. Maria made an audio recording of all she knew about the different types of rocks we are studying in geology. I recorded Sirah learning how to solve the Rubiks Cube. Ciaran mastered writing creative stories all on his own. Sirah and Ciaran really enjoyed our history studies as we finished off Greece and Maria discovered she really enjoys decimals more than fractions. Serona took the kids on an Owl Prowl where they saw a barred owl up very close, dissected owl pellets and went for a walk in the woods. Ciaran mopped up what was left of me in a near three hour game of Risk. We discovered some good documentaries on Netflix streaming and got into a new season of Digging for the Truth and Rough Science, next up will be MythBusters and of course some Wii was played. Current favorite games of choice in the house: Dance Dance Revolution, WiiFit and Star Wars Lightsaber Duels.

This week is already feeling full and it is just Monday. Art class, homeschool cooperative, having a new homeschool family over to get the kids together and have her look at all my supplies, dinner guests and somewhere in there we will get school done. The weather is supposed to improve again as well so I anticipate some more outdoor adventures will be on the docket as well. Just enjoying Minnesota in March and trying to ignore everyone else saying "Lion or Lamb?" because in Minnesota we don't ask that question until April - yes we still get snow in April sometimes. Enjoy your March wherever you are.