Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Brain fog and Blessings

Obviously, blogging went straight to the bottom of my priority list this semester.  Even if I had tried to blog, I'm not sure I've had the extra brain space to come up with a creative thought!  You've gotta love brain overload!  

The reason:
As a youngster, my parents warned me about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.  It was an effective scare tactic for me.  But I think they may have forgotten about another potential problem area.  I'm almost positive now, that potty training a little one kills this mother's brain cells.  This semester has proved doubly challenging, as I've been "finishing" the late-trainer's new potty habits, and beginning training with her early-trainer (for me) sister.  The littlest one has proved the easiest to train of all my sweethearts, but a late-developing hiccup has presented itself.  So, I've essentially been potty training two at the same time, with coordinated accidents.  One day, they'll both do perfectly, and then the next day, they try to outdo each other with oopsies of all kinds.

On the other end of the spectrum, I've got a high school Junior, with whom I am walking down the uncharted path of ACT's, CLEP tests, Scholarship applications, and the search for direction in colleges and majors.  And then there is everyone in between.

We also communicate a GREAT deal at our house.  So, besides the usual noises that go on in a house full of 8 people, we discuss, and discuss, and discuss, which is how I want it to be.  And with three little girls that have been bountifully blessed with the gift of nonstop gab, and an eleven year old boy who is a self-described chatterbox... and piano playing, music-listening, tickle chasing, etc, etc, etc... whew!  We've got a lot of sounds and action going at our house!

I find myself fuzzy in the head, and fantasizing about a dream vacation at the end of most every day, but I wouldn't have it any other way.  I have no struggle this year-end at figuring out which goals to set for the new year...

Simplify as much as I can, in order to appreciate my todays.  Lord, help me to know how to fashion my days, my thoughts, my prayers... 

The good news:
I still have little ones to potty train!  I remember praying for more babies, when I only had three children.  When I cried out to God, I hoped for at least one more.  And look at me now... three little princesses are running around my house!  I can imagine what I might be feeling right now, getting a son prepared for college, if I didn't have younger ones and lots more years of homeschooling memories to make.

It is such an extreme pleasure to watch my son come into his own.  To see him carefully and thoughtfully making wise decisions about his future!  And what a privilege it is to get to be the one who helps him work through all of the unique challenges that college prep presents.  Having such a good boy makes it such a proud mom moment.

We do communicate at our house!  This has always been my homeschool mom dream.  I love to discuss, and my awesome kiddos have allowed me to teach them in a way that makes learning about real life.  Oh, how thankful I am that we talk about everything!

Yes, I'm foggy, fuzzy, and not very creative right now, but how very blessed I am!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Been hiding out...

Sorry, I disappeared for a little while, there! I twisted some muscles in my back a bit, and felt it best to stay away from my desk and computer for a while.

Actually, for a few days, even just the thought of sitting at the computer made my back wrench!  But I am mostly healed up now, and anxious to get back to blogging and all other things cyberspace.

Besides my moments of disability, we've been doing school and life.  We had the privilege of a two week visit from a dear friend, Heather, who is a huge blessing to our family.

Macy had a 48 hour fever thing, and we've had a couple sneezers and sniffers in the house.  Even poor Heather got to share our germs while she was here.  (I'm so sorry, Heather!)

Since we're quite a few weeks into the school year now, we've gotten accustomed to our flex-schedule, and have worked out what is expected of each of us.  Also, having a guest with us gave me some new ideas and perspectives of some things I want to improve on.  Isn't it funny how having an outside observer around can cause one to notice the cracks?!?

With a surprise visit from my very dear mother and father in law, this week has become a special treat away from any boring routine.  So, between this week and the last two with company, there are some extra hearts to love and be loved by... this is what life is all about, isn't it?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Kids & Nature Study pics

I snapped this picture Monday morning. The girls were ready to get this new week started! Andrew was still just waking good company!  (Yep, those are pj pants)

The rest of the pics were taken by Sydney when she took the girls outside for a little nature study...

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Charlotte Mason Help

Here's an additional post to the Literature Series I had posted over the summer.  This topic is ALWAYS on my mind:

I've been scouring websites and blogs for Charlotte Mason inspiration as we enjoy these beautiful first weeks of our new school year;  going on nature walks, studying Leonardo da Vinci, pulling out the time-lines and maps, snuggling together with our favorite picture books, having great discussions about our Bible lessons.

I like to use Charlotte Mason methodology as much as I can.

In addition to Ambleside online and other curriculum sites (listed in a previous post) that use a literature approach, I've found some incredibly helpful blogs.  Just click on the pictures below to visit each site.

Simply Charlotte Mason is a valuable resource (full of book recommendations, organizer/planners, a blog, articles, and curriculum helps).   This is at the top of the list!    (picture credit:  from SCM website)

Charlotte Mason Home Education is a wonderful one.  It's packed full of tips, how-to's, and freebies.  (pic from CMHE)

Handbook of Nature Study blog.  She gives many free downloads, and nature study challenges.  She also posts lots of pics of their family's nature study finds.  Good stuff!  (pic from HNS)

Practical Pages (blog).  Every post includes a printable download.  Lots of practical tutorials notebooking, copywork, art appreciation, etc.  (pic from PP)

Click this link to access a nicely done "Living Books" book list at Charlotte Mason Home Education.  (pic from CMHE)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Temper tantrum love from this mother of six

So, my littlest sweetheart just turned two.  The five that went before her, were two years old at one time also.  Yes they were!

I've seen some tantrums!  

Just so you know, my kiddos are pretty incredible... smart, sweet little things!  But every now and then they have their moments.  We try to be consistent.  We try to use some good psychology.  We don't have situations where our toddlers rule over the house with their whims and desires.  They know this house is run by Mom & Dad, not them.  But that selfish desire to have their own way rears it's ugly head from time to time.

My Janie is giving me a little more practice in dealing with tantrums than any of her older siblings.  She's so darling, and her little moments of self-indulgence just melt my heart.  I've seen stubbornness in children before, but she is not ashamed to let her feelings be known.  I am sure it is the sign of a girl who will one day become a strong, godly woman!  Don't ya think?

Like I said, we've done this before, so we've had some practice.  Between that, and the fact that I've been dealing with these tantrums as of late, I've come up with a pretty good system.  There's really never a one-size-fits-all answer for anything, but here are some tips for new parents who may be dealing with tantrums for the first time, and don't know which school of thought to follow.

1.)  If your child doesn't throw tantrums:  Congratulations!  Enjoy that!  I've had a couple of kids who made things easy for me in that way.  Just please try to be understanding of the parents around you who are struggling to find the right solution for their families.  It's the "you haven't walked in their shoes" thing.  You know.

2.)  Every child is different:  You can keep having babies and keep having babies, and they will keep coming out different than the rest!  I know I'm stating the obvious, but after you have a few children, you really do realize this truth in a very big way.  Once you think you have things figured out, you realize you don't!  Keep this in mind when you have to tweak and adjust your methods with the varied tantrums that come from varied persons.  The same goes for these tips... take what works, and leave the rest.

3.)  Be proactive:  In many cases, if your discipline is consistent and your (loving) authority has been established, you can prevent most tantrums by avoiding triggers.  Triggers for tantrums can be being hungry, tired, or frustrated.  For instance, I rarely see a tantrum from Janie on a day when I have kept her belly full, made sure she got to nap/bed before she became overtired, and when I explain what is expected from her in new situations before they occur.  

4.)  Explain, explain, explain:  I learned this valuable lesson from my firstborn's piano teacher.  This lady started teaching children when they turned three, and would have a room full of little squirmers for group lessons, all lined up along the wall, sitting like statues.  She would tell a new three year old when they came in the room... "I expect you to sit here, like this, with your hands this way, (for a 40 minute group lesson).  This is how we do it here.  You are big enough to do this, and you will do great."  She had confidence that they could, and they heard it in her voice.  Those kids knew they could sit still, behave, and obey, because she believed they could.  Watching her do this blew my "young new mom" mind.  I now employ this way of explaining what's expected (when I'm on top of my game, of course) with the smaller kiddos when we're going into any new situation.  Children have a much better reaction to a situation when they know ahead of time how they will be expected to act.

5.)  Talk, talk, talk:  Same thing, huh?!?  But communicating does wonders, doesn't it?  If I can see that Janie is overtired and there is the possibility of a meltdown trying to put her in bed (which is now my fault for not putting her to bed on time), I try to distract her when I see her start to complain.  I shower her with love and smiles, and we talk about what great fun thing she is going to get to do in the morning when she wakes up.  Instead of trying to discipline that bad attitude out of her, I avoid an unnecessary battle by loving her lots and talking about how big she is, and how well she obeyed today, etc.  We can work on "how to have a good attitude" and "how to obey" in the morning when she's fresh, by explaining, talking, role playing, and training.
6.)  Try to look through the actions, into the heart:   When I was a new mom, I saw tantrums as a challenge of my authority.  I thought it was as simple as a battle of the wills.  Things may sometimes be that simple, but feeling upset and threatened by a lack of respect for my authority can keep me from a real understanding of what's going on my little child's heart.  I like to try to think, "Is my sweetheart scared of this new, big situation?  Does she feel like she has lost control of her whole world, and doesn't know how to cope?  Is she upset about more than this, and I haven't been paying attention to what may have led up to this?"  Children's minds and hearts are complex, just like an adult.  Just because they are under our authority does not make them less of a person, with less important feelings.  Look into those little eyes and try to see if they are searching for understanding, trying to grasp why that fleshly nature can't have what it wants. Take time to whisper a quick prayer for wisdom and understanding.  And try not to react as if your little one is your enemy.

7.)  If necessary, ignore:  Once Janie has "tantrumed" to the point of no return, we have to just leave her alone for a while (not REALLY alone, of course- just not paying attention to her).  It's not a punishment and it doesn't scare her.  She actually doesn't want anyone talking to her or trying to fix it when she's that upset.  So, intentional ignoring works great once she's decided she'll settle for nothing but a good cry on the floor.  She actually only has her tantrums at home or in the car.  (I think I do a better job of being proactive when I'm in public.)

8.)  Timing is everything:  When your child has lost their emotional control, it is not a good time to "teach them a lesson".  They have lost their capacity for rational thought at this point.  For instance, once my littlest sweetheart has reached the climax of her meltdown, crying and writhing on the floor, it's time to step back.  I try to approach her every few minutes, and for Janie, it takes several attempts of asking if she's ready for a hug (reconciliation).  But I don't hover over her, begging or lecturing while she's out of it.  I keep trying every  few minutes with an opportunity for her to choose a good alternative, and choose peace and reconciliation. If she's unapproachable when I try again, I make it quick and leave her to her fit.  Eventually, I get to make my last pass, with open arms and smile, and she is finally ready to melt into my arms when I again say "are you ready to be done, and hug Mommy?"

9.)  Do obedience and behavior training in the good moments:  In case it sounds like I'm a pushover, I'd better add that it is a VERY good idea to obedience train and teach self-control!  It is just most effectively taught when a child is well rested and in good spirits.

A Pilot's Story from Sept 10-11th

Leading up to September 11th, I always spend time reflecting and remembering 2001.  Here is an amazing testimony that is definitely worth watching!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Lord's Day Thoughts

 God is big, truly AWEsome, and more amazing than I can comprehend!  How desperately I need Him and His mercy and grace.  When I think of how hugely powerful my God is, I am overcome with thanksgiving because I am His child.  I am His. 

Here is what is on my mind and heart today...

 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
 Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
 Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.
 There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.
 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.
 The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.
 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
 Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth.
 He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.
 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. Psalm 46(KJV)

Oh my God, He will not delay... 

my refuge and strength always.

I will not fear.  His promise is true. 

My God will come through always!

Lyrics (Kristian Stanfill- Always)

I feel so safe, protected, and confident in Him, my Sovereign God.   

Here is the message of HaKadosh (the Holy One), the True One, the one who has the key of David, who, if opens something, no one else can shut it, and if he closes something, no else can open it.  (Rev 3:7 Complete Jewish Bible)

Week One: How we did

We did our thing!  

Of course, real life took over.   Yes it did.  

The schedule was very helpful.  Without it, our week would have led to complete frustration.  That schedule hanging on the wall gave us the ability to embrace real life, knowing that we could get right back on track as real life would permit.  The tasks would still get done.  (At least the important ones.)  The day would have some order.  And Mom would keep her sanity!

 I remember a time when real life would have frustrated me to the pointing of giving up on a schedule.  I also remember a time when real life would have been ignored for the sake of "school".  What a nice place for me to arrive at, six kids along- real life and organization walking hand in hand.  Not the perfection of a "dream" homeschooling day, but children who are learning about hard work, disciplining themselves, being flexible as life happens, and having some fun, too!  
Andrew- 6th grade
Macy- 1st grade

My high school aged kids don't seem to hang around when I'm pulling out the camera.  I hope to sneak up on them some this year, to capture a kodak moment here and there when they have their noses in the books.  But for now, here are some moments from this week:

Austin (11th grade) reading to baby Janie

Macy invited her little sisters onto her blanket at blanket time , so she could read to them.

More musical blankets- Tessa (3) and Janie (2) wanted to be together

This is how the girls came down on Tues morning... play dresses over their jammies and climbing all over the place.  That's Macy climbing over the chair onto her sisters.

Another pic from our impromptu nature walk.

Part of our welcomed "real life" this week... a visit from one of our favorite friends, Crystal!  I think she's dancing with the girls for a video Sydney was making... now that's love!
More real life love... dog-sitting a fence jumping, cat eating Rhodesian Ridgeback.  

We sure fell in love with this big sweetheart of a dog, Rowdy.


Monday, August 29, 2011

First nature walk (not quite worthy of nature "study" status)

Our first nature study, on our first official day of our first 100% schedule-following, checklist-checking day of school...

Did not go as planned...

But it was very cute, and a simply sweet way to start a new year of learning and discovering. 

Janie was acting very tired, and crying about "nature walk" because she knew it was coming, and thought it was taking entirely too long to come about!  I could tell she wasn't going to make it to nature walk time if I put her down for her nap when she really needed it.  So Janie, Tessa, and I left our puzzles and books, and headed out the front door to do our own quick, mini nature study.

We found this fallen nest, and tried to look closely to see what Mommy Bird used to build it out of.  We also chased grasshoppers, followed ants, and listened to the sounds coming out of the woods.  Tessa tried to catch a butterfly, too.
Andrew and Macy had been having their "together" break time, and found us, so our mini nature walk turned into the official nature study of the day.  Our nature study bag remained inside, neglected and unused, along with everyone's shoes!  And the first order of business once they joined us was a lesson in tree climbing from big brother.

She's still a tired girl, she just doesn't know it.  

Friday, August 26, 2011

Smile and wave, girls!

I'm just not quite sure why my otherwise brilliant husband, who doesn't prefer to have piles of candy in the house, told the girls to smile and wave REAL BIG, so candy would be thrown their way during a parade this month.

They did smile and wave real big.

They did look cute!

They did have candy thrown their way.

They did end up coming home with entirely too much candy.

Their daddy did admit that maybe he shouldn't have coached them so well.

And they did make their mommy and daddy's hearts glad... darling girls!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Thoughts about Motherhood

Yesterday was a thoughtful day for me. I was thinking so much about the challenges my children and grandchildren will face in their lifetimes. When I think about the changing world, and how quickly things progress and change in this day and age, instead of being discouraged, I become energized!

I say this over and over again...
God made me for now!

God made my children to serve a purpose in their generation!

We are here for His glory in THIS moment in history!

So, these thoughtful days remind me of the HUGE role I play as a mother in this epic story of our world. (The word epic is really overused lately, I know!)

But when it comes to God's supernatural plan for His children and the way He chose to let His story play out on this "natural" sphere of water and land, the perspective of considering timeless eternity causes me to feel the responsibility that comes with being a mother. The lives of my children are so greatly affected by mine... I can feel the awesome weight of that influential position!

I am responsible for teaching my children about the God of creation.

I am responsible to train my children to trust God's Word.

I am responsible to be an example of godliness.

I am responsible to disciple my children like Jesus disciples.

I am responsible to prepare them to defend their faith in this world.

I am responsible to point out God's handiwork all around them, so they will see and know Him.

I am responsible to show them what God's love looks like coming through a human vessel.

Ultimately, God calls them and draws them, but I have a very important job to do! Creator God gives his creation a chance to glorify Him by affecting GENERATIONS!!!


...Toward the end of my thoughtful day, I was able to have a wonderful conversation with my own mother. Thank you, Lord, for the gift You gave me in a powerfully godly influence!

What a gift, to have the chance to be encouraged by my mother...

Encouraged to stay strong... not grow weary!

Encouraged to teach my children God's truth, so they can stand up for what they believe in.

Encouraged to equip without overwhelming.

Encouraged to keep praying and believing when the days are long.

Encouraged to remember God's grace and mercy when I can see my human limits.

And thank you, Mother, for your witness in faithfulness. I love you! Thank you for ending my evening with a conversation that reminded me of the blessing that is passed from generation to generation... down from mother, to mother, to mother. As we train our little ones, we are training them to train their little ones, and on and on.

... And then my day ended with bittersweet tears, as I read another's blog article about saying goodbye to her own mother. Oh my...

...what a way to end my thoughtful day- sad for a sister in Christ, but more than that-

reminded deeply of the influence of a mother. How greatly the heart is affected by the relationship of mother and child! This is God's plan... His way.

Oh, that I can be faithful in my calling...

May the Lord continue to empower me and other mothers like me who hear your call, and long to touch the hearts of generations!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Schoolroom 2011

The schoolroom is ready for action! It will only be this clean and organized once, so take notice!

The right side of the schoolroom:
Left bookcase-
Landmarks, Trailblazers, and other history
Sydney's shelf (bottom shelf)

Right bookcase (top to bottom)-
Extra curriculum
1828 Dictionary, 5 in a Row books, lapbook supplies
Macy's shelf
Austin's shelf
Andrew's shelf
Tessa's shelf

Left side of the schoolroom:
Far left bookcase (top to bottom)-
Previous years' binders, National Endowment for the Arts freebies
Bible/Character/Inspirational picture books and study guides
3 1/2 shelves of fiction
Anthologies and Poetry
Childcraft books

Middle bookcase (top to bottom)-
Trixie Belden set and misc
Boxed sets (Little House, A.A. Milne, Homer, etc)
DVDs (Moody Science, Vision Forum, Diana Waring) and Audio Books
2 shelves of Science readers and reference
Picture books
Board books
Misc bulky books and empty boxes ready for girls to fill

Far right bookcase (top to bottom)-
First 3 shelves History and Biographies
Little Golden books and Dr. Suess
Last 3 shelves Preschool (puzzles, leap pads, blocks, etc)

Preschool area

Bulletin board
My desk
Pick up/drop off station (blanket time baskets, binders, and shelves for finished work, craft box and Handwriting Without Tears box underneath)

Incomplete schedule (still working on afternoons)

The bookshelves usually stay fairly organized. The greatest potential for quick mess are the preschool shelves and picture books shelves that the little girls use. And then, there's the fact that my desk is usually piled with "stuff" by the end of the day. The table collects stuff also. And the girls leave books all over the floor. Besides working more with the girls on putting things away when they're done, I'm hoping having a "Librarian of the week" will help keep the books on the shelves.

It feels good to have the room ready. The kids have started somewhat of a school schedule today, while I continue to work on printing out their school checklists, chore lists, and reward charts. By next Monday, we should be running like a machine! At least, as much as that is possible with six kids' worth of unpredictability! Let the learning begin!
(This blog post was a little early for Living Well Wednesdays, but I couldn't help but link to it... hope that's OK!)

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