Sunday, November 30, 2008

Assessing November

November and December are historically our worst homeschooling months. I pretty much know they will be far under par compared to my usual expectations. Even though I know that it's OK, and that we will end the year just about exactly where I would like to, I can't help but feel the pressure come this time of year. Since November is the time of year for us to have many extra family get-togethers, get things prepared for Christmas, practice extra for the early December recitals and concerts, celebrate 3 of the 5 kids' birthdays, and have Thanksgiving, we forgo the typical schedule and checklists more often than not. As you can see in the picture, we started off the month of November going on a trip to Branson to get us all geared up for the holidays.

Losing some of the structure and normalcy during these months, and replacing it with a lot of family fun and holiday traditions makes January something to really look forward to. I certainly come "back to work" with a new excitement, ready to take on any challenge. So, I try to just enjoy the change and then be ready to dive back into the routine at the new year. I try. It's not easy though. The loss of structure brings with it some of the downfalls of summer break... kids getting to bed too late, a bit more bickering, and some frustrated mom moments in the chaos. But all in all, it is the way our school year usually goes. And real life is what we're really all about, isn't it?

So, until January, enjoy... making and decorating cookies, snuggling together to look at big beautiful picture books about the nativity, being Santa, helping little ones work on their handmade gifts, taking that holiday family picture, making red and green paper chains, encouraging the little maestros as they nervously prepare for recitals, sewing those Christmas pageant costumes, drinking hot apple cider and hot chocolate around the Christmas tree, visiting Grandma & Grandpa, listening to the Chipmunks Christmas CD over and over again, reminiscing of holidays past, and telling your wide-eyed 3 year about baby Jesus. There's really nothing better than that... not even homeschool.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Good reminders in a bad economy

We read Smart Money by Jerry & Ramona Tuma years ago. It's the best book I've ever seen on how our personalities and marriage dynamics relate to our views on money, saving, and spending. My husband pulled out the book to look for a quote for one of his school papers, and we ended up going for a stroll down memory lane. It's amazing what a difference a decade or so makes in your understanding. It was definitely worth going through again, under new, completely different circumstances than when we first read it.
While we were in smart money mode, I pulled one of those "someday Ill go through this with the kids" books off of my bookshelf. Money Matter for Kids by Larry Burkett seems like it's going to be a great find to go through with the kiddos. I've been talking with the kids a lot about using wisdom in finance lately because of the current financial mess that's on the news every day lately. Kurt is reading to us, since we didn't want to miss out on his perspective on the topic. So far, the book is extremely biblical and really speaks to the heart of the matter. In just the first chapter, the kids learned that everything is God's, what stewardship means, to trust God, spend time with Him, and give Him our hearts, about procrastination, how money gets its' value, responsibility, and the rewards of an obedient life. There are breaks in the lesson for jokes and trivia to keep the kids' attention.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Favorite Thanksgiving Books

Here are my favorite books for this time of year for elementary level kids...

Stories of the Pilgrims by M. B. Pumphrey (Christian Liberty Press)

The Landing of the Pilgrims by J. Daugherty (A Landmark Book)

Squanto Friend of the Pilgrims by C. R. Bulla

The Pilgrims of Plimoth by Marcia Sewall

Sarah Morton's Day (A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl) by Kate Waters

has real photographs of the outdoor living museum in Plymouth

Historic Communities A Child's Day by Kalman & Everts

1621 A New Look at Thanksgiving by Grace & Bruchac (National Geographic)

also has photographs from the Plimouth Plantation

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A vocabulary lesson

I'm anxious for the day that I can post about some deep theological truth I've found. I've got more questions about doctrine right now than answers. I am looking forward to being able to share some of my theological discoveries in upcoming posts, but for now I'm going to keep my theo-ramblings to myself. Believe me, it's better that way for now.

In lieu of a revelation from God, I've decided to pass along some silly things I find myself learning from my 12 & 14 year old sweethearts. Now, since the kids are home schooled and unsocialized, they shouldn't really know anything culturally relevant, you know (absolutely meant to be tongue in cheek!). Somehow we seem get more than enough exposure to the trends of the present day. Whether that is a good thing or not remains to be seen. But I have to admit, I rather enjoy hearing the cute words that the kids add to our family's vocabulary by picking up on the new words that are created within the preteen and teen subculture.

Now, you'll have to let me know how up to date we are in the new slang arena. For all I (and my kiddos) know, we could be speaking from the "what's not" side of the "what's hot, what's not" list. We may be way behind. Feel free to point it out in a comment to this post. I would love to hear if I'm completely making a fool of myself! I'd also love to hear any other words we may want to add to our silly times as we hang out here together every day in our sometimes deep and sometimes completely goofy HOMEschool. This post will also serve to let the grandmas and moms with little ones out there know what's going on in our world here. This is some of the fun stuff of having kids the age I do right now.

So here goes... we've been using this one for a while, so it may not be that trendy anymore, but it's an easy one to implement...

Coolio... it's just a basic substitute for cool... You can say it relaxed like "cool' eeo" with a soft calm voice reminiscent of a 70's hippie kicked back in a bean bag chair, or you can say it with excitement about something you are really and truly impressed with... "cool ee Oohhh!" (the last Ohhhh is said sing-song like the ding dong of a doorbell)

Is this helpful information?

Own or Owned... this is what you are doing if you have mastered something or if something has got the best of you (ie: "I owned that math lesson" means it was easy for me; "You owned that, Mom" means good job, Mom).
Ownage... When you do well at something you get to yell, "Ownage!". This means I owned that.
Purely owned or pure ownage is shortened to Pown or Pownage... This is even better than "owning" something... purely owning is a step above! (ie: "I powned you in that game. "Pownage!" is used to declare a great victory)

Good to know, huh?

Chillax... This one's easy... "chill out" plus "relax"... This is a good one for when you really want to tell your kids to stop nagging you about something. Love to use their slang against them... hee hee.

Hope this is useful information for ya! Let me know your new vocabulary words!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Project Day

After an extra long weekend of family visiting and celebrating an early Thanksgiving, the kids were in project mood today. Mondays are already hard enough to tackle, but after a weekend full of fun with cousins, they were especially resistant to the normal routine. I had extra cleaning up to do, so I left the kiddos to their own to spend time productively.

Andrew decided that he had had enough of a broken bunk bed ladder. He took matters into his own hands and got out the power drill (yes... a little scary!), screws, hammer, and super glue (for good measure?). I suspected that the ladder pieces would still be on my floor when Kurt came home from work, but to my surprise he came through some early struggles with the rungs not wanting to stick, and completed the job. He was so proud! And I was proud too.

Sydney knew that she wanted to great straight to work on her Christmas sewing. She made homemade gifts for the whole family last year, and she's busy at work again this year. What a little sweetie. She loves to give.

Austin went after the basketball hoop. I guess the basket was crooked. Of course, that was news to me. But the boys were getting annoyed by an uneven hoop. So, he went out in the cold and went to work on fixing that. That only makes sense since he was the toddler who would arrange his toys in a perfect line. He loves orderliness.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Great baby book

Over 14 years of motherhood I've heard and read a lot of advice about babies. It can get confusing sorting through all of the opinions, for sure. Sleeping Through the Night... How Infants, Toddlers, and Their Parents Can Get A Good Night's Sleep by Jodi A. Mindell, Ph.D. has been one of the most valuable finds I've come across in my search for good information. The author explains the science behind sleep patterns and habits. She goes through the different stages and ages of a baby and toddler, which gives an idea of what to expect from the varying times in your baby's first few years.

I didn't find this book until just before having baby #4, and I wished that it had been around before baby #1. I sure could have used it back then. I skimmed it again before having my last baby and just pulled it back out a few weeks ago to reread the sections pertinent to Tessa's present needs.

The tips and advice in this book are invaluable! If you don't like structure and routine, this book is probably not for you. But if you want to be sure that your baby is resting completely and securely; and you want to feel less like a zombie, then this book is a great source to go through. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My favorite veteran... my dad

Happy Veteran's Day! Thank you to all of the superheros that fought and fight for our country.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

I am so proud of all of my family members who have served in the military. My grandfather served in WWII. Two of my uncles were career servicemen. My brother and cousins have served. And my hero, my dad, was one of the few and the proud in Vietnam. There's not much tougher than a Marine!

As a child, I loved hearing Dad tell us the stories of narrow escapes and MacGyver-type maneuvers that he experienced back in the war. I just knew that my dad could do anything! And just last week, my fun-loving Daddy came and spent the night with my kiddos in their treehouse. Like I said, he's a brave guy...

The kids came in from the cold the next morning to snuggle up next to the fireplace as Dad rode off into the sunset. (He deserves a medal. Well, actually he's already got one... a purple heart) They were full of stories about Grandpa's soldier days. What a blessing it is to have such a patriot in the family! Love you Dad!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Coffee and Tea

Now that the temperatures are dropping enough for it to really feel like fall, I'm enjoying a daily cup of coffee or tea. After pretty much staying away from a lot of caffeine during my last pregnancy and then for nursing, I had almost forgotten what an indulgence a warm mug in hand can be.

In my new life of having two "tiny ones" around while homeschooling three "big ones" I have been searching for my new me-time activity. What used to be quiet afternoons (the kids stole away to play together) and evenings with my husband (the kids went to their rooms early to read before bed), has been replaced by a pretty mug filled with a yummy hot drink at my desk while helping Andrew with his math. The leap to 5 kiddos and one of them now being a teen has somehow made any quiet moment a very rare thing.

So, the addition of the coffee cup to my daily tasks makes me feel like I'm sneaking in a little grown-up time without ever leaving a room full of my sweethearts. Silly, I know, but these are some of the things I think about lately when I'm taking a breather from thinking about politics and theology... brain crash? I just don't feel nearly smart enough to blog about those, though. I end up sharing my silly thoughts on my me-time!

My favorites right now: Constant Comment tea and Starbucks organic coffee (freshly ground, thanks to a gift from my sister... a Starbucks grinder... love it!!!)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Revised Schedule

It's far enough into the school year now to assess the schedule thing. The benefits of a more structured schedule are outweighing the drawbacks. So, I'm definitely glad we're following a daily plan.

The extreme preciseness of The Managers of Their Homes recommendations are definitely a bit much for us. We watched the clock like hawks when we first started, and I was constantly making announcements like "It's 9:00, is everyone doing what they're supposed to right now?" I was kind of like the old town cryer... 10:00 and all is well, look at your schedule and checklist. The relief of not always being asked "what should I do now, Mom?" was replaced by an urgency to keep the kids moving... chop, chop, chop.

We've now moved to a pace that suits our home style. The kids pretty much know the order of the day now. So, we do more of a system where I check in with everyone as I get chances to take my breaks. Like, I'll make sure everybody is up and eating by 8:00. Then tell them to go straight to morning chores. The biggest kids automatically go to their schoolwork after they're finished chores, following the time chart and order of subjects posted on the schedule. So, they stay on target for the most part. Andrew needs more prompting, and I give him more leeway. I've added more freetime and breaks for him than I originally had, because Macy needs him as a playmate more in the mornings than I had anticipated. And he has so much energy in the mornings, that it seems to fit better for him too.

The original schedule I made tends to fall apart in the afternoons. I had planned to keep up extra studies (like art history and extra reading) toward the end of the day. Realistically, I should have known that we would be tired by then and that I would release the kids to their freedom. I probably did know that I would end up doing that. But it felt good to have such an ambitious goal. Oh well. The new plan is to take one afternoon a week to go crazy on extras and have fun with it.

Another adjustment I made is to let the kids have delight directed days every now and then. They are particularly interested in burying their noses in a good book after we've taken a long weekend or been running like mad for a couple of days. I just can't get myself to enforce the schedule when I have the chance to watch them love learning! Those kind of days are also a great chance for me to really focus in on some extra time with Andrew and Macy.

Overall, I love having a schedule. It has become my ally. I'm not so sure that other, more strict "schooly" moms would be impressed. But we are finding what works best for us. Oh, the benefits of a tailor-made education!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Great election night resource

Here is a wonderful download for an electoral college map and tally sheet. My kids are going to color in the map and tally the numbers as the results come in Tuesday night. On Wednesday we'll put together a lapbook or notebook (not quite sure yet) all about the election. I'm hoping to take some pictures of our election day experience and download some graphics of the candidates to add to our project.

Hopefully our guy will win or this may not be such a fun assignment. LOL

In all seriousness, I truly believe my kiddos have been perfectly created for such a time as this... whatever the future may hold. God is in control and He has a plan for their days!

The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Psalm 37:23

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Farm Milk

Mmm... once you've had farm fresh milk, store bought just isn't the same. Today we drove past beautiful fall foliage, hay-bailed pastures, quaint farm houses, and pretty red barns to pick up some milk from a local farm. I'm not sure what's better, the creamy milk or the scenery from the tree lined curvy country roads.

The Maker's Diet recommends using raw milk, although I have not been able to make arrangements to do that for our family yet. I have a source, but the pick-up time and distance are something I just can't do at this point. Here's a link to the Weston A. Price Foundation, which can help you find a local milk farmer and learn more about the benefits of raw milk...

The milk we are drinking now is from organically raised Jersey cows and is pasteurized, which is not perfect, but compared to the questionable standards of the organic milk at Wal-Mart it's so much better. And the taste is incomparable. It's fat content is much higher than any other milk I've seen and it makes incredible kefir. I highly recommend finding a way to get good quality milk! You won't believe the difference.

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