Monday, January 29, 2007

Mind Your Manners!

Today turned out to be a pretty good day. In case you haven't noticed, school has been stressing me out a bit lately. I decided to take a proactive approach to the situation and accept that it was ME making it stressful.

    So to fix the situation, I've made some changes where they needed to be made: in me.
  • I've starting making Yoga a higher priority in my life. Higher than tv. Higher than... *gasp* ... sleep. I do feel better because of it and every night, I meditate on having more patience, wisdom and peace in my life.
  • I've tried to stop procrastinating. I try to do things when I think about doing them, rather than putting them at the bottom of that never-ending and never-shortening list of to-do items.
  • I've started saying yes. Can we read a book? Yes! Can you play a game with us? Yes! Can we have candy? NO! I may be saying yes a little more, but I'm not a complete pushover. ;)
  • Also in line with not being a pushover, I have stopped trying to be everything to everyone at once. School happens when I say it happens and it happens for the person I say it happens for - no more, no less. I just cannot go back and forth and back and forth between three kids. It's crazy to even try.

So with that general attitude adjustment in hand, I started the day by printing out the mailing labels for the February Homeschool Newsletter... even BEFORE I got the word that the newsletter was finished and ready for them. I've always waited until the last possible second to do it and then ended up all stressed out. Why?? I don't know. But this month I just realized that it would be smarter to just have them ready ahead of time and for the first time EVER, I wasn't the slightest bit stressed getting them ready. I was going to take the kids to the park after taking the labels to the post office (to mail to the person who mails out the newsletters - don't ask about the paper trail... it's crazy) but C&C were fighting all morning long. Oh they were fighting non-stop, but I didn't let it get to me. I stayed calm and simply told them that I wasn't about to take them to the park to be around other kids if they couldn't even get along with each other. And so we came right home even though they begged and bargained with me.

At home I put Greyson in bed, made grilled cheese for lunch, and then brought a couple of library books over to the table. We are hosting a Good Manners Tea Party for a couple of friends on Wednesday and so I had a small pile of books on table manners that we had not, of course, gotten around to. I read Polite as a Princess, a Disney Princess book, Dinner's Ready! A Pig's Book of Table Manners by Jane Gedye, and Mind Your Manners! by Diane Goode. To my surprise, Cameron asked me to read both the Princess one, lol, and the pig one twice. The one by Goode was actually based on an 1805 Spelling/Reading Primer so the language was a bit hard to grasp at times, but it did lead to an interesting discussion on life before electricity. I'm also reading From Hand to Mouth: Or, How We Invented Knives, Forks, Spoons, and Chopsticks & the Table Manners To Go With Them by James Cross Giblin as my bedtime reading. It's pretty interesting!

When everyone was done with lunch, I announced that it was time for Cameron to do his schoolwork. Cassia instantly went and grabbed her math book, lol. I told her that I really wanted to be able to give her 100% of my attention when we did her schoolwork, so I wasn't going to let them both work at the same time. She pitched a bit of a fit until I suggested that she work on her Little Mermaid digital coloring book while she waited for Cameron to finish. She jumped at the chance to use my laptop.

Cameron whizzed through a phonics lesson on "s" with the /z/ sound. He read like a pro and the more I complimented him, the better he did. Next he did two pages of math where the problems were in sets like 5 + 2 = __ and 15 + 2 = __. He really got the concept down. He did get a little hung up when the first sum was more than ten, as in 7 + 5 = __ and 27 + 5 = __, but once I reminded him how to count up on his fingers for that first problem he could do the second without hesitation. I think that settles the question of whether or not we should start doing drill work. I think not having those facts at his fingertips is holding him back a little. We finished up his school day with a little science. We did one final observation on his moldy bread and he correctly observed that the fungi need water in order to grow. I was ready to stop but he saw a word search on materials as the next activity and wanted to do that too. I read across each row and he told me when he recognized the name of a material, lol. It was actually a really fun way to do a word search.

He went off to play video games and Cassia lost no time in telling me that it was her turn now. First we did a couple pages on matching geometric solids with real life objects. She was really good at that. Somehow though, she's gotten it into her head that a sphere is called "rolls like a ball." ROFL. Next we did some counting and writing with the numbers 5 and 6. She liked the counting and tracing parts but wanted to put off the actual writing and "save it for tomorrow." So we moved on to phonics and we did a couple pages on the letter s. Again, once it got to the actual writing part her arm was too tired and she wanted to skip it. I have no problem with that at all. I'm actually really impressed that she's forming her letters and numbers as well as she is! She also did a really great job of remembering the sounds of s, r, p, t, and k, especially considering how irregularly we work on it!

Now they're both watching Robin Hood again, big surprise, and I'm trying to decide what to make for dinner. Roast chicken sound good to everyone? Anyway, fingers crossed that I can continue to do my yoga and my meditations regularly and keep a certain peace in my mind and my heart so that it can find the way into the rest of our lives. I hate being stressed. This is much more fun. :)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Learning Style Quiz

Me: I knew this. A lot of the answers weren't 100% though. I have a texture thing that wasn't addressed but I'm sure no one is completely one style.

What Is Your Learning Style? Quiz for Adults

You are a Visual Learner. You like to see things for yourself, read the directions, and study the diagrams. You learn well through reading, and seeing pictures, models, and visual demonstrations. You notice minute details and are fascinated by the intricacies of the world around you. Visit my Blog: Guilt-Free Homeschooling
Take this quiz!

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Cameron: Duh.

What Is Your Learning Style? Quiz for Kids

You are a Kinesthetic Learner. You like to move. You feel blindfolded when you have to sit still at a table for hours. Anyone who calls you hyperactive, just doesnt understand that moving your large muscle groups helps your brain to process information. (Some people may have thought that you have a learning disability, but you probably just need extra time and space to move around and digest the facts.) You can learn best immediately after running laps around the backyard, doing chin-ups, or jumping rope, etc. because then your brain is fully activated and ready to receive information. Visit my Blog: Guilt-Free Homeschooling
Take this quiz!

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Cassia: This one surprised me, but the stuff about being a natural musician IS exactly her. Good thing to know. I wonder how this may change as she gets older though.

What Is Your Learning Style? Quiz for Kids

You are an Auditory Learner. You would rather be told what to do than be forced to read the directions. You memorize easily by hearing something over and over. You have (or can develop) a good sense of rhythm; you are likely a natural musician. You will retain printed information best if you read it aloud to yourself, even quietly. Visit my Blog: Guilt-Free Homeschooling
Take this quiz!

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Games Called on Account of Rain

Well, we were supposed to go to the park today (to infect half a dozen more kids with our virus, lol) but Mother Nature was against us. It started raining about a half an hour before we were supposed to be leaving, much to our collective disappointment. Cameron, especially, was really bummed so I promised him that we would do something fun at home.

We started by making and mailing a couple get well cards to a Great Uncle who took a spill in the kitchen the other day and landed himself in the hospital. Next we played several games of Wild Animal Dominoes. I keep forgetting how much fun that is to play with the kids. It's just this wooden dominoes set with native North American animals instead of numbers on it that we picked up in Yosemite last summer. It's a great game because it's so simple that even Cassia can play easily, yet it's still fun for everyone.

Next I started doing some cleaning in the master bedroom (Greyson was taking a nice long nap for a change!) and one or the other of the kids kept coming into the bedroom and bouncing around on the bed for a minute or two and then running off again. I finally realized that they were playing Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (If you don't remember me blogging about that, it was a silly book that we got from the library a while back.) One person would be the pigeon and the reader and act out the book in the living room while the other would be the bus driver, away on an errand. The bus driver's only part was to say "Remember, don't let the pigeon drive the bus!" at the beginning and then "You didn't let the pigeon drive the bus did you? Thanks!" at the end. LOL. Silly kids. But you know what? A book came very alive for them. A very silly book, mind you, but a book nonetheless.

Eventually they both ended up bouncing around on the bed since it was stripped and had a big mound of pillows piled on it. They played King of the Pillows and that led to playing King Cameron and Queen Cassia which led to me telling them that the current Queen of England is named Elizabeth II and that when she dies her son, Charles, will be King. Well then the game changed and Cassia was suddenly Queen Elizabeth and Cameron was Prince Charles. Rather, Cassia was Queen Elizabeth the 3-1/2. ROFL! And that game somehow morphed into the ever popular Robin Hood and sometime around then Greyson finally woke up and I lost track of all the cute little imaginings going on in their world.

Around 4:00 we finally got around to schoolwork. Yes, I know I said I was going to try and get to it earlier but everyone is always so self-amusing early in the day! It seems a shame to break their stride and interrupt such good play for boring old book work. Besides, that's when I get my best web surfing in! ;) I'm going to be in big trouble next year when I have all these subjects that I'm telling myself that we have to do. Anyway they both wanted to do work so I got Cameron started on his math. It was a drill page of addition problems with sums 15 to 20. I thought Cameron would be able to easily do that on his own, but he couldn't. Every single problem he had to hold up X fingers while I held up Y and then he would take fingers from me to make his equal 10 to get the answer. Every. Single. Time.

Meanwhile, Cassia started on Earlybird 1B. In total, she did almost three whole lessons - that's NINE pages! She was really into it and I felt really bad because I wasn't able to spend the one-on-one time with her to do it that I did when Cameron did that book. I didn't even notice, until now when I went to count how many pages she did, that she skipped a couple pages in the middle. I didn't do the cute little lesson demos that are suggested. I didn't help her form her 3s the right way so most of them ended up looking like s'es. I didn't encourage her to color the farm animal page something other than all red. And I didn't let her go as far as she wanted to because I couldn't keep going back and forth and back and forth and back and forth between the two of them. There has GOT to be an easier way. The problem is that she insists on doing her school work at the same time that he does but they're both so young that they both need 100% attention. Even if I can convince her to do it another time, she'll then get distracted and want to play with him instead. It's all about doing what big brother does.

Speaking of Big Brother Cameron again, after he finished his math I pulled out the science workbook. There was a really simple worksheet on classifying different materials on whether they came from plant, animal, earth, or man-made sources. It was easy stuff. Cameron and DH totally went over all that information the other day and he had it down pat. He did not get it at all today. Actually, he did really well on the one section where you were identifying which objects were made of which materials but seemed to have no concept of what came from where. He was just guessing and I was getting super frustrated with him. Cassia was clamoring for attention because she wanted to keep going in her math book but I couldn't help her because I was helping Cameron. Greyson was screeching over something. I was stressing... finally, I realized that I was going nuts over nothing. The science program that we're using was intended for 3rd graders! Why do I keep forgetting that? Oh, I felt so bad for being so hard on him once I remembered that. I've got to stop treating the workbook as a test as start treating it as a teaching tool. Just something to read and fill in the blanks. It doesn't matter who gives the answer as long as the answer gets out there.

Anyway, I apologized to him and told him that I had forgotten that the workbook was written for much older kids. You could see the relief on his face that it wasn't just him. I hope I didn't make him feel stupid. Bad Mommy. I love workbooks. I love following directions and doing things just the way you are supposed to. I forget that life doesn't really work that way sometimes. Not everyone fits in the blanks and they shouldn't be made to either. I think the kids learned more today with all their creative games than they did from their workbooks. I should probably just quit buying workbooks. School-at-Home was never what I was after anyway - they're just so darn convenient!

The Love of a Child

DH has been having a stressful time at work lately. Nothing job-threatening (unless he decides to up and quit out of sheer disgust), but he came home Thursday night, very late, after probably one of his worst days ever... and smiled. Why did he smile, you might ask? Greyson had been very happily amusing himself in the entranceway enjoying the blow of air from the register - his latest obsession. At the first rattle of house keys he stopped and quickly turned around to see who or what it was. When he saw his Daddy, his little face just lit up and he squealed with delight. He bounced up and down a few times, waving his arms, and then crawled as fast as he could to the door to meet him. I have never seen him so excited. When DH scooped him up into his arms, that little baby looked like he was about to explode with joy... and DH with pride and gratitude. Isn't it funny how just when you convince yourself that the whole world is against you, the sweetest, purest, most genuine love shows itself?

And now on to the more mundane. We did, in fact, skip park day on Wednesday. I just couldn't bring myself to leave the house just yet. We played a phonics game to review the soft g and c sounds. There was a list of silly instructions like Trace your hand, or Do a dance that is strange, or Hold the rice in two hands. The instructor would read the sentence and the student would have to read the bold word. If they read it correctly then they could do the silly thing. It was pretty fun and Cameron even asked to do it twice. We were doing Balance one cent on your head, but dropped the penny. So as we were combing the penny colored carpet to find the little choking hazard before Greyson did, Cassia grabbed the bag of rice and said, "Let's just balance the rice on our heads instead!" And in true Cat in the Hat fashion we hear Look at me, look at me, look at me now! and that is what the girl said as she fell on her head and came down with a bump from up there on the ball and Cameron and I, we heard all the things fall. OK, not quite. She was standing on a chair, not a ball but we did heard "Look, guys!" and then "Oooopsie," and then something that sounded like a waterfall. Yes, that was the sound of a pound of organic brown basmati rice raining down onto the floor. Game over.

I tried to get Cameron to start on his math while I cleaned up the rice but he just sat there. Why exactly do I have to read addition problems to him?? The whole session was a disaster and included lots of snapping, fussing, whining, and threatening on both parts. I've really got to learn to get school started earlier in the day before I am tired and at my stress limit. He did finally get that I was at my limit and did the last half of the page by himself without guessing or forcing me to walk him through every single, little, tiny step of it. I was very happy about that but also a little annoyed because that just proved that I was right all along... but there was no need to be petty about it.

Thursday I didn't bother. ;) I spent the morning going through my new Story of the World book and Activity Guide and trying to make some sort of loose schedule for next year. I plan on schooling year round but I want to try to plan out our history to fit in a traditional school year. This is partly because I intend on leading a 4-H project on Ancient Technologies to coincide with our studies and 4-H only runs September through May, and partly because I want to leave a large buffer in case we slack. Not that we would ever slack or anything. ;)

So I wasted all morning doing that while the kids played LEGOs and assumed various identities. Next was gymnastics. I wasn't sure if we should really go or not because Cameron had been complaining of a stomach ache off and on all day, but they really needed to get out. Cameron was oscillating between crazy-out-of-control-maniac and exhausted. Cassia was oscillating between sweet and obstinate - nothing new there! At the beginning of class she burst into tears because she thought that one of the coaches had forgotten to say hi to her, lol. Anyway, they both did fine with their classes but had some bouts of tummy trouble around dinnertime. So we've likely infected about 30 or 40 kids with a nasty virus. Ooops. They haven't had any other incidences of it though so today we are off to the park to infect another 10. ;)

And most importantly...

Happy Moving Day, Maria, my friend!! May this new phase in your life bring you nothing but joy and contentment.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I'm back!

Sorry for the long delay in getting back. I never did get the house really clean (though it was presentable) because even though I turned off the computer distraction, Julie Andrews drew me in to Austria. There's a car commercial that they keep playing on Nick Jr with the "So long, farewell" song from The Sound of Music on it and the kids would walk around singing it all day. Well, I just couldn't let them not see it in context so I made them watch it the other day (did I blog about that?) and so it's been on several times over the past week. Anyway, I love that movie - had to watch.

Friday afternoon we went to the LEGO Engineering project at 4-H. It was hilarious trying to get there: I had a hard time pulling Cameron away from his LEGOs to go to play with LEGOs. ;) It was really fun. They had a bunch of motors and just let the kids free-form build whatever they wanted for the first half - there were some great designs! - and then brought out some race car kits for the next half. The last few minutes they had races with their rubber band powered cars. Greyson kept crawling on the raceway, lol. This was the first project where Cameron hasn't needed any help at all. I sat on the other side of the room with Cassia and Greyson, coloring pictures and casually chatting, thinking this is what it must feel like to send your kids to school. OK, not quite, but I bet that's what it feels like to have your kid in a co-op class without you! It's amazing to me that my little out of control toddler is at that point now.

Saturday we spent the day with my dad playing miniature golf. Cassia got a hole-in-one on her very first hole! Cameron did that too his first time playing. I guess it's a family tradition. Greyson's got a lot to live up to. ;) Anyway, on the way there, Cassia pointed out that there were three girls in the car. We asked her how many boys there were and she counted four. Next we asked Cameron how many people total there were and rather than counting them, he said, "Hmmm, three girls plus four boys is.... 7 people!" Everyone was suitably impressed with his addition skills but I was much more impressed by the fact that rather than counting, he sat there and did a math problem in his head. It seems that mathematics for him has moved from the concrete manipulation of things to the abstract manipulation of symbols.

Sunday we went to a birthday party then my mom came over for dinner. I didn't have much appetite and blamed it on the overly sweet and chemically cupcakes at the party. No such luck. Monday I woke up on death's door, it seems. I won't get into the nitty gritty, but the vertigo alone was enough to kill me. So I spent Monday and Tuesday on the couch watching Discovery Channel all day and moving as little as possible. Have you ever tried to carry a baby while the room is spinning?? Not fun.

Cameron and Cassia were a great help though. They fixed their own food (with a little help) and played nicely all day Monday. Cameron even brought his schoolwork to the couch for me. We very slowly worked through one math exercise (more addition) and one phonics exercise (hard and soft g). Tuesday DH was afraid that he was getting it too and stayed home as a precautionary measure. He ended up just taking care of the kids all day. What a man! He even did Cameron's schoolwork with him. They read the last chapter in MPH 3A on materials and I have to say that I was pretty impressed. He made sure that Cam understood what he was saying (I don't think he really needed to verify that Cameron could define every word in every sentence, but I was good and did not say a word!) and he even roamed around the house looking for concrete examples of each type of material. The man obviously understands multisensory learning! By dinnertime, I was able to actually eat again and felt much better after that. Greyson though, woke up screaming every two hours ALL NIGHT LONG. Yawn. Today, I am still a little dizzy and very tired/wiped out/sleepy but I think that now I will survive. Still not sure I should drive though so we're skipping park day this afternoon.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Trying to be good.

My Dad and his girlfriend (He used to call her his fiance but then said that the term implies that one day, they intend on getting married. After ten years of happily maintaining a relationship while living at least 200 miles apart, they've finally realized that neither of them has any intention of ever getting married.) are coming over tomorrow and my house is a mess. I also have baby food to make, school to direct, a 4-H project to go to, laundry to fold, and dinner to cook. And yet, here I sit reading blogs and message boards. Bad, Jenny.

So I am turning off the computer. Wish me luck in my withdrawls. I'll update Sunday or Monday. (Or later tonight if I just cannot stand it any longer!!)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Call of the Wild(life Museum)

Wednesday we started the day with a very long overdue trip to the grocery store. We were out of everything! It was so bad that we literally had nothing for lunch. We had no choice but to go. Luckily, we did have oatmeal and milk or we would've had to go to the store before breakfast... or wait, we could've just been forced to go out for pancakes instead! Oh man, did I blow that one! ;)

We rushed home from the store, put the groceries away, made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and jumped back into the car with our sandwiches and headed out to Park Day. We were late, as usual, but it was a beautiful day so there was no way I was going to miss it. We got there twenty minutes late to find that we were the first ones there!! Unbelievable! But we stayed and played and several of our friends turned up within a half hour or so. Seems like everyone has been in a lazy kind of a mood this week - or out of town.

Then we came home for ice cream (our treat for finally getting off our butts and going to the store!) and schoolwork. We finally had bread to do our bread mold experiment, so we toasted half of one piece, dampened the other one and then put them both into Ziploc bags. We're supposed to make observations each day. Remind me to do that later, lol. Next came phonics and Cameron learned the soft sound of "c." He seemed pretty shocked to find out that cent was spelled with a c instead of an s. That's going to be a tough one to remember, I think. Getting through the word list was tough. It probably didn't help that Cassia wanted to learn to read too so we were taking turns reading the words. She would "read" by saying silly nonsense noises as I pointed to each word and then Cameron would go through the same list and read the words correctly for us. It was fun and silly and kept everyone in good spirits, but it broke his rhythm and he had to relearn the lesson with each row of words.

Thursday we started the day with a trip to a local wildlife museum. It was a great trip. I can't believe we've lived in this area for so long and have just completely missed so many places! Have I mentioned how much I appreciate this field trip group (and MomJ for organizing it all!!), our 4-H group, and our homeschool group in general?? Because of these groups, we are doing so many things that have always been "on my list" but that I never got around to doing. It's so easy to say "someday" sometimes, but when you have a plan and a group of people waiting for you, someday becomes a reality. Not to mention all these places that I'd never even heard of right here in my backyard!

But back to the museum. It's a really neat place because it is run by the local high school and completely maintained by the students! The upkeep of the exhibits (mostly taxidermy) and the animals (mostly reptiles) is done during regular class periods and so tours are only given on a strict timetable. We were almost late, lol. We got lost since I knew nothing about the school campus and there were no signs on the street. Most kids tour with their school, so I guess they all know the ropes already. Our docent tour guides were students and very, very nice. The give public school students a good name.

Cameron was a riot. He had a question or comment for absolutely everything. One of the moms leaned over to me and said how great it was that he was so enthusiastic and involved in everything. :) One of the docents commented on how polite he was because every time he interrupted them he said, excuse me. LOL. Now if I could just get him to stop interrupting people we'd be in business! ;) Cassia was great too. She was a little figity, but really not bad at all. They were both interested and respectful and a delight. BIG switch from that dreaded Post Office tour a couple weeks ago, lol. Coincidence that S5 wasn't there? Hmmmm.

Next was a quick trip to the library to drop off our movies from last week and to pick up two more. They got Dora's Halloween Adventure, which is scratched and won't play, and The Muppet's Wizard of Oz, which they are watching now. Then we headed off to gymnastics and both kids, though bouncier than Tigger before and after class, actually listened and performed well. It looks like they actually listened this morning when DH said his usual, "Don't drive Mommy crazy today," as he walked out the door. ;)

Cameron finally figured out that tours with the homeschool group equal school and insisted that this should count as science. I said you're right, it's science, but you still have to do math and reading before you can play video games. They opted for library movies instead.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Much better today, thanks.

Thanks all of you for the well wishes. It's good to have friends (and yes, Jenn, please link to me and visit often!) After a friendly chat with MIL, a glass of wine, and a couple rounds of Dance Dance Revolution, I felt much better by yesterday night. Still no AF though, just spotting... bf'ing is doing some wacky things to my cycle this time. (The bf'ing isn't new - I'm an old pro at that - but I always went on POPs after my 6-wk pp checkup which kept AF at bay until I stopped taking the pill. Au natural is much more complex, I'm finding!) Anyway... sorry for the tmi.

School went pretty well this morning. Cassia was working in her math book on comparing objects in a balance. She's finally got it down that the lower side is heavier. Still though, she is much more interested in making pretty patterns with the colored hex-weights than finding anything to measure. She still has another page or two of that which I may just let her skip. Those are the last two pages of EB1A though. Maybe I'll just have her do the last page, for closure.

Cameron did fantastic on his math. It was adding and subtracting 0 through 4 to numbers in the 20s and 30s by counting up or down. He hardly made any mistakes at all and just worked through it very quickly. He was quite proud of himself. Next we did science. We're still working on the fungi and micro-organism chapter. There was a really great experiment to do with a moist piece and a toasted piece of bread... but we were out of bread. Whoops. So we just did a (boring) workbook page, actually 4 pages, on plants and fungi. He did pretty good on it. He loved the crossword type puzzle that spelled out "fungi" when you got all the right answers.

Greyson was supposed to be napping during all this but refused. He just stands at his crib rail and screams. So I let him stay up. First I carried him around while directing the various school activities. Then I let him crawl around on the floor, but he kept getting himself stuck under the chairs, lol. Then I put him in his bouncy seat and he had a great time just bouncing himself up and down, up and down, up and down, until...Does that look comfortable to you??

Now we're watching Robin Hood, yet again, and waiting to see if some friends stop by. They probably won't because I didn't call this weekend to confirm, but as I'm sure I've said before, I really hate the phone. Really, really, really hate the phone. Right up there with public speaking, lol.

OK, here's one more cute picture for good measure.

Monday, January 15, 2007

It's the thought that counts.

OK, I had this really bitchy post all typed up and ready to go, but I think it's better that I just delete it.

PMS sucks. How's your day?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Thursday & Friday & no creative title

Well, we actually managed to get through most of the library books! I think the only one that wasn't read was one that Cassia had picked out called Grannies. We spent Wednesday and Thursday reading about Sea Sponges and Recycling and Addition Annie and Bugs and Pigeons and Paper Cranes and a few more things that I can't remember. And it was good! It looks as though Cameron has picked up one of my more annoying traits... procrastination. He doesn't want to do anything until the very last second. He can't put his shoes on until we are "ready to go NOW." He won't get dressed until it's 5 minutes until his deadline. He won't let me read library books to him until they're due back tomorrow. And I'm sure that's probably my fault, lol.

Thursday was gymnastics day. Nothing too exciting there except that Cameron now has a red star on his name tag. I don't know what that means except that he used to have a yellow outline and a pencil X on it and now he has a red outline and a red foil star. Some kids have 3 stars on theirs. I know it has something to do with skill level and how long you've been in the class. He's been in this particular class a full year now. I wonder if that's it? I doubt it's because he's mastered all the appropriate skills because he is always so freakin' hyper on testing day that he can barely walk a straight line, much less a balance beam, lol. His similarly hyper friend Conner also got a new red star this session. He's at the exact same place - brute strength but neither grace nor patience.

Friday we went to Preschool Park Day but it was so cold that only two other families were there. The kids didn't seem to mind but us moms just sat on a bench, as closely as possible, shivering and chatting. It wasn't nearly as cold as it was supposed to be today (supposed to be in the 20s!), but it was COLD. We didn't stay too terribly long because we had to get back here and give my mom a ride to a doctor's appointment. While we waited for her, we read Chapter 3 of The Magician's Nephew. We had time to read another, but Cameron didn't want to. It was pretty distracting trying to read in the car with Cassia digging through the glove box and Greyson beeping the horn every five minutes, so I don't blame him for wanting to stop.

I had printed out the materials for Unit Two of Poco a poco but we never got around to it. At least now that they're already printed maybe we can just do it first thing Saturday morning. We did do plenty of other learning though. Before breakfast, Cameron and I were discussing the number 1000 - actually it was a carry over from Thursday night's dinner - and ended up writing numbers, by 100, to 1000 on the white board. That led to a discussion on commas in numbers. We also did some talking about coin values in the car while we were waiting for my mom. I know Cassia said something really thoughtful and intelligent today that really showed me what a smart little cookie she is, but I can't for the life of me remember what it was, lol.

So no school, but no stagnation either, lol. Living and learning. And keeping the dumb baby out of the pet food and the trash. *sigh* Did you know that dry cat food goes straight through the digestive tract??

OH! I did think of one notable thing as I was contemplating whether or not I was really going to publish the term "dumb baby" or not... my mother has a very bizarre sense of humor and seems to think it hilarious to threaten violence to innocents. As in that cat better knock it off or I'm going to break both his legs. Well today when I said something about having carried Greyson too much yesterday and that we just wanted to wait in the car because my arm was sore, she said, "well you should just put him on a leash and let him bump along after you! Hahaha" Oh yeah Mom, funny, that's what I should do (insert sarcasm here). Well Cameron got ALL indignant. She had been on her way into the drug store at the time and only caught the first part of his indignancy (for which she did apologize and clarify that she was only kidding the second she got back in the car, to her credit) but he just went on and on about how that wasn't funny because he would get hurt and hurting people isn't funny and what if he got run over in the street because he can't walk yet! I explained that, of course, she knew that no one would ever do that and that's why it was just a joke. He said that he knew it was a joke but it wasn't funny and that she really needs to stop saying things like that. :O My little human rights activist. Who would've known that there was such sensitivity hidden in someone who likes to play so violently, lol!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Blustery Day - edited!

Nothing too exciting today except for park day. It was sunny and 50ish, but when the wind started blowing...brrrrrrrr. Poor little Greyson's gums were chattering. All of the 4 - 6 year old boys, and one little girl L, were playing push & wrestle. Wrestle & push. Fall over and laugh then push & wrestle again. Silly kids. I guess it's a 5 yo thing.

Earlier in the day, I looked over at the library book table and saw a whole bag full of UNREAD books that are due back tomorrow. I made a proclamation that we weren't going to do anything else until all of those books were read, lol. So I dumped them all out on the floor and we began digging through them. Turns out there were a couple that we had, in fact, read but there was still quite a pile! We made a good dent in it though. Cameron even read part of a Dick & Jane book that I had gotten for him. He didn't like it much. Too boring, I guess. We read this one called Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus that was really silly. Of course, they loved it - maybe it's my pigeon voice. ;) But, after saying that Dick & Jane was "too hard," Cameron sat down and read the pigeon book, cover to cover. I have the feeling that Captain Underpants or something similarly silly and non-educational will be in his future.

---- just when you thought you knew your child ----

And a mere 3 hours after publishing this entry, my dear sweet boy actually begged me to read Narnia to him. He and Cassia were being statues during dinner - Cameron's all looked thoughtful and Cassia's all had their tongue sticking out, lol - and I told them that the book I was reading right now had a mean witch in it that turned everyone into statues. Oh, what big eyes I saw at that! To think, such exciting things in a book! Books that usually have such dull stuff as Dick and Jane pulling Spot and Puff in a wagon could actually have exciting things like witches turning children into statues?? So I started reading them The Magicians Nephew (they got complete collection of the Chronicles for Christmas and that is the order they are placed in, so that is the order in which I am reading them) and I thought I was losing Cam in the details. I lost Cassia right away. Greyson kept fussing and I had to keep stopping and each time I would ask Cameron if he wanted me to continue. Each time, to my surprise, he said yes. I finished chapter one, which luckily had a very exciting ending, and said that it was time for bed. Cameron begged me to read "just one more chapter!" Oh! What a sound! I never thought I would hear that phrase. Beaming here, truly beaming. So I read chapter two and he was enraptured. He even was able to narrate back to me the briefest outline of the plot.

I seriously thought we were doomed to Goosebumps and Captain Underpants to keep him interested, but now we have discovered true literature. *Sigh.* I am so happy that I think I am glowing.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Public Speaking 101

Today at our monthly 4-H meeting, I had to stand up and give a little talk on our community service project next month. Wow, do I suck. I am perfectly chatty and coherent in writing, but put me in front of a group of people - heck, put me one on one with someone - and, well, it's not pretty. It's not particularly ugly, because I don't say much and get out of Dodge as fast as possible, but it is not pretty. I think I only hit about half of the points that I wanted to make and I was blushing and sweating and stammering and saying, "ummmm ummm," and oh, it was just humiliating. It probably wasn't that bad to watch - just really short and spoken too quickly - but it was sheer torture to do. Sheer and complete torture.

For once though, the meeting was nice and short so the members didn't get bored and restless and the little girls, who are technically too young to be in 4-H but participate in everything anyway, happily played Barbies and Doll Houses together in the back of the room. After the business part of the meeting was Presentation Day. Six different members came up and demonstrated different types of presentations: demonstrations, illustrated talks, impromptu speeches, educational displays, etc.

Cameron had volunteered to do an impromptu talk so we had been practicing and prepping him for weeks. The leader and I decided that it would be better to stack the deck, so to speak, in his favor and give him a topic that he actually knew something about... LEGO Star Wars. LOL. We actually gave him the choice between "How to play with a baby" and "LEGOs" and he chose to expand it to LEGO Star Wars. He did so good though!! I could take lessons from him. Hell, I should've had him give my presentation for me. ;) He stayed on topic; he spoke at a good volume (he was actually the best of all of them in that respect); he mostly, sort of, had a clear beginning, middle, and end to his speech; he used hand gestures to demonstrate his points, but wasn't particularly fidgety; he answered questions appropriately; and he kept his audience's attention. He rocked. There is a county presentation day next month. I'm definitely going to ask him if he wants to participate in that because he is a natural at public speaking.

After the presentations were over, the kids each got an Achievement Award. I wasn't expecting that at all and thought it was a really nice gesture. After that, there were free cupcakes for everyone and I really wasn't expecting that! WooHoo for cupcakes! Greyson attacked mine and got a nose full of frosting, lol. Poor neglected third child whose mother has no concern for his health and lets him eat chocolate cupcakes at 8 months. *Rolling eyes* at myself.

Anyway, on the way home we decided that that should definitely count as school today, or at least half of it, so when we got home Cameron and I just played a quick game of War with subtraction flash cards (I won, ha ha) and then I let them watch Robin Hood - again. Cracks me up how into stuff they get. I will sign off now and start dinner while Greyson is still sleeping off his sugar high. ;)

EDITED to add pictures!!

Monday, January 08, 2007

What a fungi!

Yes, we read the chapter on mushrooms and micro-organisms today. I asked Cameron if he could remember what was stored in the mushroom's gills and he answered "fun-man?" Um, no. I think the word you're looking for is fungi, but that's not the word I was looking for. He tries again, "s'mores?" That would be spores and sure, close enough, lol. At least he was listening. After reading the chapter, he did a page in the Activity Book where he was to draw three mushrooms and label the cap, gills, and stalk. Luckily, I had a bag of porcinis in the fridge but I couldn't find any others outside. I wish we had read the chapter over the weekend before we went to Deer Island on Sunday. We saw at least 10 different types of mushrooms and other fungi there. But I did point them out when we saw them and talked about how they weren't plants, so hopefully they still had that mental picture. Anyway, we looked up some wild mushrooms with a Google Image search and he drew the other two from there. He did a very nice job too, if I do say so myself.

After that he did math: two pages (one exercise) of addition and subtraction. He's doing ok with it. He guesses too much, but I think part of that is because he gets a lot of right answers through simple logic and intuition. I think he thinks that whatever number pops into his head must be right, like a psychic math power or something, lol.

Cassia said she wanted to do schoolwork too. She listened to the science chapter with us but then started doing puzzles while Cameron was doing the activity and his math. He went off to play video games and she she tried to do her ETC primer, but was too distracted. We plugged away through a page and a half - with LOTS of redirection - but then she said she was done and rushed off to watch Cam play. I forgot that my New Rule was no movies or video games until EVERYONE was done with their schoolwork. I meant that so that her watching a movie wouldn't distract him, but it goes both ways. My little girl is growning up. :)

Speaking of growing up, how much dog food can a baby eat before it's a really bad thing? That little crawler is QUICK! ;)

Friday, January 05, 2007

Emotional Overload

Seems that everyone at the park today was on emotional overload. Several of the families that usually stay and play all day left early due to mental breakdown, lol. K was being mean to her sister. A was having tantrum after tantrum - HUGE emotional outbursts - over simple miscommunications and misunderstandings. J kept getting a talking to which is a very rare sight. Cassia kept wanting "to be alone." Cameron wasn't too bad except for doing that exact thing that J got reprimanded for RIGHT AFTER it was said.

J: starts dumping a bottle of water into the grass
J's Dad: What are you doing son? Don't waste water. You know better than that.
Cameron: (even before the above sentence is finished) picks up half empty bottle and continues dumping it into the grass
Me: OK, time to go now.

I continued on with my School Regardless plan today. I'm not sure that it worked quite as well as it did yesterday, but we got done what I wanted to get done with a minimum of fuss. They did watch tv with their breakfast this morning, but I had them turn it off after one Little Einsteins and one Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Cameron had already wandered away to play LEGOs but Cassia had a bit of a fit. She eventually got over it. Around noon, I pulled out all their schoolbooks and announced that it was "time for school" and guess what they did... THEY CAME RUNNING! That was pretty cool to see.

First I set Cassia up with HWT's Letters and Numbers for Me and a slate board so that she could practice her letters. She's just started writing her name and she can get the CA just perfect. The ss'es have a few too many loops and she "doesn't want to" write the rest, lol, but it's all good. Today, with the help of the book, she wrote F, E, D, P, B, R, N, M, U, V, W, X, Y, Z, C, O, Q, and G. She tried S, but realized that she wasn't getting it and then was suddenly "done." I was pretty impressed though. That was the first time she'd written most of those. I can't say enough good things about that slate board. I swear by it 100%.

Meanwhile, I started Cameron with Science. I read a very, very short chapter on flowering and non-flowering plants. He played with LEGOs. I took the LEGOs away and tried to do one of the accompanying workbook pages on the characteristics of plants. He kept talking about LEGOs. Granted, he was telling me some pretty ingenious things about the ship he had designed - it had a splash guard on the front! - but it was obvious that he was NOT thinking about science (at least not botany, lol). I've read all these things about how really active kinesthetic learners need to be doing something with their hands to help them concentrate, but with him he just concentrates on whatever is in his hands. Luckily, it was a short workbook page. Then we moved on to math. The lesson was adding and subtracting by 1s or 10s. He did great when he was paying attention. So the first few problems were perfect and then he started using his pencil as a rocket ship and the entire middle section of problems had to be redone at least once because of silly mistakes (like he would tell me the right answer and then write down the wrong answer), and then after I snapped at him a few times and the rocket pencil was grounded, the last couple problems were done right. We finished up with a quick lesson on short vowel -ck/long vowel -ke pairs (back/bake, duck/Duke, snack/snake) and he did mediocre on that. Again, I think it was just a matter of his heart not being in it.

So back to the usual quandary: do it because you have to or do it because you want to?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Now that's what I call Homeschool!

We finally had a day that felt, pretty much, like I think homeschool should feel. You know what made the difference? ME! Yup, me. First thing this morning Cassia asked if she could watch Robin Hood and I said that no one could watch movies or anything until schoolwork was done. Well, she instantly said that she wanted to do her schoolwork, lol. The past few days I've just been saying yes to the requests to do other things. In my quest to not make schoolwork a chore by making it optional, I've made it a chore. Now my goal is to make it "just what we do" so that it becomes a more neutral part of our day.

So anyway, she did a couple pages in EB Math on comparing mass with a balance. We found out that Lego Darth Vader weighs less than a pacifier, lol. (Despite Mary's brilliant idea of doing the volume comparison problems in the bathtub, I just skipped those pages.) She's only got about two and a half pages left in that book (1A) but unlike Cameron, she wasn't in any rush to finish. She was much more interested in building towers with the hex-grams than in finishing the page. No rush on my part either, I just think it's interesting how different they are. Next she did a few pages in her ETC primer. It was mostly review, but I think we're still in the letter P section. It's been a while since she's worked on anything so I've forgotten where we were, lol.

Throughout the morning Cameron was playing LEGOs, surprise, surprise. He's built this really cool "Death Star" using some of the old moon bases from DH's old astronaut set. It has a landing pad for the Millennium Falcon and a control panel for R2D2 to use, lol. He's pretty creative sometimes. While Cassia was finding things to compare on the balance, she started talking about The Little Mermaid and wanted to weigh Sebastian the crab and some sand, lol. Well, this got Cameron thinking about crabs and he asked me if all crabs could live both in the water and on the land like Sebastian could. I said I wasn't sure and so we looked up crabs in our two children's animal encyclopedias. We each had one to use and I showed him how to use the index and introduced the concept of alphabetization, though I don't think he really got it. So that was science. ;)

They were playing more after that and I was reading message boards and email and such and came across a free music curriculum! The kids have been really into music lately, thanks to the video game Guitar Hero and various musical instrument gifts, so the timing of this was perfect. I downloaded it with the intent of just looking it over, but with my new "just do it!" attitude I decided that we should, well, just do it! I printed out two sets of worksheets from the first unit, figuring that we'd maybe get through the introduction and maybe two of the four worksheets. I told the kids to get out any instrument of choice (Cameron got his guitar, Cassia a Native American drum, and I grabbed one of her Barbie Drum set drums (gee thanks Auntie K) and we started reading through the first lesson. Well, they were SO into it!! We played all the sample beats and then they did all of the worksheets. I was about ready to pack it up when Cameron, who originally said that I could just do it with Cassia and not him (I said no he had no choice), excitedly said "What's next???" Well how could I refuse? We read the next section on the Italian term "piano" and then I had to print out a couple more activities: flash cards and pictures for a collage. They were both really into the whole collage experience and I now have two beautifully musical pieces of art hanging in my kitchen. So that was music and art.

Back to LEGOs and lunch and laundry and all the other daily usuals. Still, no one had asked to watch tv! But I did remember that Cassia still wanted to watch Robin Hood - she had said again a few times that she was going to watch it once everyone was done with school - so I told Cameron that we had better do his schoolwork before it got too late. He said ok (and didn't even try to claim that we had already done science and music!) and we did a phonics lesson on long /u/ to which he originally protested, I gave him no choice but to do, and then he settled down and finally did with a minimum of silliness. Then we did a math exercise on wording numbers as a group of tens and a group of ones; i.e. 37 = 3 tens and 7 ones. Easy cheesy, but thank God it was because Greyson has learned to crawl and is T-R-O-U-B-L-E. Man, that kids just puts everything in his mouth! Including power cables and dog food. He's also trying very hard to crack his head open on something, but we'll try to stave off stitches for another few months, at least. ;)

So there ya go. A perfect homeschool day because I said so. Child led education is one thing, but Rules is Rules and Momma Knows Best and all that is very valid too. Actually, that's not it at all. I just have a tendency towards laziness and wanting to read about things rather than doing them. I think I just realized that the time to stop reading and start schooling had come once again. It goes in phases around here and I've got to do what feels right at the time. Right now, this feels right. :)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Post Office Tour

I decided to try using descriptive titles for a while. If I ever wanted to look for something, the date wouldn't help me find it but a memory jog of what we did that day/week/month might. Blogger does a great job or archiving by month anyway.

Today we went on a tour of a local post office. The one thing that REALLY surprised me was the guy in the "hand-sort" station. He would read the addresses and put them into a slot for the correct route. There were at least 100 slots. He had people in our group (who were local to that post office) tell him their address and he told them their route number with no hesitation. We were all impressed. When asked how long it took him to memorize all that, he said about a week. All of our jaws dropped. We figured it would take at least a couple months to memorize all that, but he said that the repetition of it made it sink in really fast.

The only bad part of it was, sadly, the behavior of my children. *sigh* Cassia was acting like her normal 3-yr-old self, which was easy enough to control by keeping her at my side but Cameron was also acting a bit like a 3 yr old. Whenever he gets together with S5 they just go crazy. It's fine when we're at home or at a park but when we're in a public place, or worse on a tour, I just cannot tolerate that craziness! They were really disruptive and not listening at ALL. Over and over and over and over I reprimanded him. I was livid. Even S5's mom, MomJ, got to the point where she said that they couldn't stand next to one another anymore - and she's usually very permissive of craziness. Ugh, I couldn't get out of there fast enough. And then we stopped by Target to see if they had these bamboo blinds I want in the right size (they didn't) and they were crazy in there too. And then we get home... perfectly calm and well-behaved. *sigh* So, why is it that I cannot take my children out in public???

We never got around to any bookwork today even though we had planned on it. Cameron was way too involved in LEGOs. He was building some really cool things today. I'm still trying to catch up on laundry from our weekend away, so I didn't mind too much. We did find the time to watch Disney's Robin Hood for the second day in a row. It's such a good movie. During dinner we were talking about it and I mentioned that we actually had the book, Robin Hood and Cameron asked if we could read it. The boy who won't even sit through a beginner chapter book wants to listen to a 350 page novel? LOL! I did read the preface to them while they were finishing up their dinner and I think he realized that it might be a little above his level. Someone gave them The Chronicles of Narnia for Christmas and I can't wait to read it to them, but I still think even that is above their attention span right now. Maybe in six months or so.

I've got to get everyone in bed now so that I can continue MY reading of Narnia. ;)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Year!

We spent New Year's weekend on the coast with BIL and SIL. We had a nice evening playing Dance, Dance Revolution and eating snacks... lots of snacks. For the first time, we let the kids try to stay up to ring in the New Year. We brought out the party hats and noisemakers at 11:00. There was a good solid 15 minutes of party fun (oh, how my idea of a fun party has changed!) and then Cassia took off her tiara and lei, put down her noisemaker and announced that the party was over. We told her that midnight was still another 45 minutes away, but she said she was done and it was time for her to go to bed. Greyson (who had his evening nap from 6:00 to 9:30!) and Cameron both made it to midnight and we all made quite the hullabaloo when the computer counted down those last few nanoseconds. (How 21st Century are we? No Big Apple drop for us; just the glow of a laptop on some random countdown site.) And Cassia slept through it all.

After the long drive home on New Year's Day, Cameron instantly wanted to do his schoolwork. He had borrowed a video game from Uncle D and *had* to try it out asap. First we did science and finished off that Chapter 1 - 4 Review sheet that we started the other day. It always surprises me, the things he remembers and the things he doesn't. He did really good on the one where you have to arrange the animals from the least number of legs to the most, but he struggled with remembering that birds have feathers and fish have scales. Next he did two math exercises. Simple, simple stuff (filling in missing numbers and patterns up to 40) but he is working towards doing it independently, instead of me walking him through every little step. We finished off "schoolwork" by watching the giraffe birth that I linked yesterday. I've seen that little clip a dozen times now and it still makes me smile. Nothing like a new life. :)

The rest of the day was filled with the kids playing with each others toys. Apparently there is a remarkable lure to other people's stuff, especially the baby's. Greyson was too busy trying to crawl to mind though.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Birth of a Giraffe

Check this out:

Definitely brought a smile to my face. :)