Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Un-Meeting

Cameron is the chair of the Community Service committee for 4-H. Until a couple weeks ago, he was also the sole member of the committee. At our last business meeting, however, several other people volunteered to be on the committee as well. WooHoo! Well, I had been trying to schedule a planning meeting (since his being the Chairboy pretty much automatically made me the Adult Coordinator) for a couple weeks and no one could agree on a time. This is the *exact* same problem I had when trying to organize the Preschool co-op last year - no one could meet at the same time! Maybe I'm just too accommodating? Maybe if I just say, it's at X time, be there or be square? Well, I sort of tried that approach last week and said, how about Wednesday around 11 at the library? One person said, how about 12. One person said, we and another family on your list have a class at that time. Another person had a death in the family and couldn't meet at all. I pretty much gave up on the idea of a meeting.

Fast forward to last night when I get an email from the one family that I hadn't heard a thing from that said See you tomorrow! So I quick sent out a reminder email to everyone else and figured that at least one person was better than nothing. Well, by the next morning I had emails from everyone and no one was able to make it, lol. But we said, what the heck, and went and had the meeting by ourselves. ;) We found a book on 500 Service Projects for kids and went through and picked out some of our favorites. Then we came home and emailed some suggestions out to our committee members and asked for their ideas and said that we could discuss it all next time we see them. I am done with formal meetings. :P

While we were reading the Service Project book, I had Cameron write out our list of potential projects. He totally did NOT want to do that but I told him that I would count the whole process as his Language Arts for the day. Next I read a Max & Ruby book to Cassia. Then I read The Star Wars Visual Dictionary to Cameron - wasn't it just yesterday that I was complaining that they never wanted to read their library books?? Then he did Review 1 in his math book. He did pretty good, but had to use Cuisenaire Rods to do a 38 = ___ + 30, which I thought was pretty bad. But, I suppose the concepts are still pretty liquidy in that little head of his. Next Cassia did three pages in her Explode the Code primer. I am really impressed with how well she is retaining that stuff. She still doesn't know all the letter names, but she sure does know which words begin with which letters! While she was working on that, Cameron pulled out another library book Playing & Composing on the Recorder. He learned how to play a G. Sort of. He definitely learned that playing music takes lots of practice, lol. I wasn't planning on trying to formally teach him how to play right now, but we happened across the book, so there you go. Even better if he's motivated to learn all by himself!

I'm still slowly working on a Master Plan for next year. I've been looking into art & music timelines to see if it will be worthwhile to try to approach things in parallel with history. Another approach would be to go chronologically, because I do see that as having great benefit, but not worry about it coordinating... just start with Raphael (or whomever) and move through to Picasso. A third method that I've seen in several curricula is to spend the first year, when there are artifacts but not artists to study, just doing a general overview of "the masters" to give a conversational edge to overall art knowledge. I was thinking of, rather than that, doing an overview of techniques and styles so that when we enter the Renaissance, he will already know the difference between an oil painting and a fresco. Similarly, we could spend our music appreciation looking at different instruments and types of work (symphony, sonata, etc). I don't know. Maybe we should just be thankful that there are fewer art pieces during the Ancients and take advantage of the slower pace. Can't do it all, right?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

It's true, I'm a food snob.

I admit it! I freely admit that I am a food snob, but not even I suspected how deeply those feelings run. I was in Safeway tonight buying diet soda and ice cream for my sick husband (gotta feed those cravings, right?) and I was just overcome. Aisles and aisles of chemical concoctions. Row after row of different varieties of the exact same item. I don't even mean rows and rows of ice cream. I mean rows and rows of Dreyer's Ice Cream. Lots of variety in flavor, but pretty much only Dryer's Ice Cream on the shelves. I finally found the Breyer's All Natural that we prefer but there was only a sixth of the shelf space given to it and most of those rows were empty.

Main stream grocery stores give the impression of abundance and variety but every time I go into one I am simply overcome by the sheer amount of sameness. They very definitely want you to buy from one specific supplier and they are not shy about shoving that product in your face. Even Cokes... I went in to buy a six-pack of Diet Pepsi. I couldn't find one!! I found 30 packs. I found 6-packs of 6-oz cans - for the kids (that's another rant altogether!). I found 6-packs of the store brand. But my DH very specifically wanted a six-pack of Diet Pepsi and they wanted me to buy 30 instead. No thanks. I did finally end up buying a 6-pack of 20-oz bottles, which was more than I wanted, but I would NOT buy that 30-pack of cans. Sheesh.

I know you guys think I'm nuts, but I seriously was on the verge of some kind of weird attack in there. I usually shop in Whole Foods. There's lots of variety. Milk free options. Gluten free options. Soy free options. Low fat. Full fat. Expeller-pressed fat. You may not get the specific brand you were looking for but you will find a myriad of choices. I've heard that they have been or will soon be bought out by Safeway, but I don't care as long as they don't take away my choices. I WANT TO CHOOSE FOR MYSELF! I guess that's why I homeschool, isn't it? That's funny. I actually had this exact same conversation with Cameron earlier today. He was saying something to the effect of how kids with two parents that work have to go to school instead of homeschooling. I was trying to explain that it's more than the work factor. It's that most people just don't think to question the norm. Not with their schooling. Not with the food they eat. Not with the tv they watch. Not with anything. Dullsville, USA. Send in the clones.

So there's my rant for the day. Ironically, I was going to rant about people who think that the rules don't apply to them - like the woman at the play place today who refused to make her kids follow the huge "NO RUUNING" sign or the other huge "No children over 3 in this area" sign in the area where my baby was almost trampled by them. But being the mother of the children that I am... I'm not going to throw stones just yet. ;)

So what's this blog supposed to be about? Oh yeah, school! LOL. Well, school went marvelously today. First off we went to homeschool day at this play place on the other side of the county. I had to drop something off to someone in that town, so it was serendipitous that homeschool day at this place was today too. Unfortunately, there were no other homeschoolers there, but we had a great time anyway. Cameron played trains and built with blocks. Cassia cooked pretend food and put all the dollies to bed. Greyson chewed on stuff and shook maracas. Just as we were about to leave, a homeschool family that we just met at the park last Friday happened in and we had a nice time chatting with them. We basically spent all day there.

We got home around 2:30 and I immediately got Cameron started on his schoolwork. He did a phonics lesson on "ea" as the long /e/ sound. He read well. We played a game where he had to read cards with "ea" words on them and there were four cards mixed in that said "eat a treat." I had put a mysterious plate of cheese and crackers on the table. He was so excited when he came across those "eat a treat" cards, lol. It's great to see that "click" when words actually mean something. Next he did a one page math exercise on adding three numbers. The next section in the workbook is a review section and then we move on to multiplication! Yikes! We finished off our school day with a science activity about patterns and cycles. It was a simple "complete the pattern" thing followed by rewriting they patterns that were cyclic with a recycling type notation. You know, the three arrows thing.

I've been thinking so much about next year and wondering if I'm going to be attempting and/or expecting too much out of Cam. But then with days like today, days when we spend all day out playing and then still get all of the intended work done, I know that we can do it. We can do it. We can do it. We can do it. Say it with me! We can do it.

Monday, February 26, 2007

What have I gotten myself into?

I started making my plans for History next year. It all seemed so simple in my mind. Follow the Ancient History timelines in a history encyclopedia or two. Read Story of the World. Check out a few books and movies from the library. Color a few maps. Do a few craft projects. Simple, right? Wrong! There's so much stuff out there! There is no way we could do it all, even if we tried.

Now the challenge seems to be figuring out what is worth spending the time on and what is not. I'm starting with Susan Wise Bauer's recommendations in the Story of the World Activity Guide and then narrowing that down by what my library actually has. (I'm thinking I should get together with all the other WTMers in my area and make a schedule because I know we're all going to want the same books, lol! I'm actually planning on starting in July, so hopefully I can get a jump on the competition.) Then I'm looking at what my library has that "looks interesting" by the online catalog. I'll order those in a week or two ahead of time and look them over. Then I'll just go look at what our library has in stock. And here, is actually one of my major panics about my plan... do you hear how many library books that is? We generally check out about 10 to 20 library books a month now. Embarrassingly, we actually read very few of those. Sometimes the kids love to be read to but frequently they just sit there collecting dust... the books, that is, not the kids. I'm just afraid that I'm going to have all these great, painstakingly laid out plans that are just going to sit on our "library table" going to waste.

I've also been planning out the activities and crafts that I think sound like fun to coincide with our studies. Things like cave paintings and flooding the Nile. (I'm going to hold off on the mummified chicken until our second pass though!) Hopefully these will go over well, if I plan them out and remember to do them! I tend to say that the kids don't like crafts, but the truth is that I don't like the mess for the 10 minutes of occupation that they provide, lol. But for real, honest-to-goodness school, hopefully I can make myself follow through.

Netflix and TiVo'ing the History Channel are also on my list for multimedia learning opportunities. Those I *know* the kids will like, but again, will I follow through past the first week or two? I think this homeschooling adventure of ours is going to be as much as a learning and Mind-Training experience for me as it will be for them. I hope I pass.

Now on to the log portion of the blog... Sunday, Cameron did another homemade math worksheet - mixed addition and subtraction. They must've done their job because Monday he said that he wanted to go back to working in the book. He did one exercise on adding three numbers and didn't take too horribly long to do it. He also did one lesson in phonics on "ee" as the long /e/ sound. He did really fantastic on that! Finally, we finished up with Lesson 4 in Spelling Workout - more beginning sound matching. He dragged and complained a bit because it was four pages long, but it was such easy work. I told him we could skip it and move on to Lesson 5, Ending Sounds, but he didn't want to. He finished it with ease and we were done with school before noon.

It's days like today, when with just a little gentle nudge we breeze through multiple subjects with most of the day to spare, that I think that we can really pull off a real Classical Education. I hope we can. It really is the ideal education in my mind. It's a little overwhelming at times, to see all I want to accomplish at once, but I think if we just continue on as we are we'll be fine. I plan to keep moving ahead with phonics, math, spelling, and eventually grammar *most* everyday, and the occasional science lesson like we have been, and then add on history three times a week and art/music once a week. Schedule the history and art appreciation. Keep the three R's flowing at his speed. Classical and child led, right?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Death and Marriage

I was talking to a friend at the park the other day and mentioning how everything is about "dead" now. "I made him dead!" or "If you don't obey Darth Vader, he is going to make you dead!" Morbid, yes, but I'm sure it's just developmental. As I said, I was discussing this phenomenon with her and she said that her two, also 5-1/2 and almost 4, were similarly obsessed. Well, with that and marriage. Death and marriage, what a pair!

At dinner tonight, Cameron brings up marriage. He says he's going to marry Cassia's friend Cassia (because I won't let him marry his sister). We were talking about how old you have to be and I was clarifying that there is more to the ceremony than just "a kiss" and then Cassia's fork starts dancing around and saying it wants to marry Cameron's fork. His fork tells hers that they can't because she's old enough. She has to be 18 first. She says, "Oh yeah, then take that!" and her fork starts attacking his. Meanwhile, I'm still trying to explain how you pledge to love someone forever and then exchange rings and suddenly Cameron butts in with, "Don't worry, we're not going to get married. We're just going to fight!" and then they break out into a sword fight with their forks.

Death and marriage - what a pair!

Friday, February 23, 2007


I've been outed! Turns out that someone I don't really know (but have met once or twice) was reading my blog (where she came across it, I have no idea) and mentioned it to someone I *do* know. Well, she mentioned it to a couple other people I know and now I feel like the Fabrege girl, She'll tell two friends, and she'll tell two friends, and so on, and so on, and so on! I feel like I was just caught dancing naked in my living room with the blinds open, lol.

Yeah, so, um....

OK, now I've got to try to once again pretend that I'm only talking to Maria, Meesh, Mary, G, and occasionally Kris instead of the whole freakin' Western World. Gah. Who would've thought you could get stage fright from a blog? Gee thanks, Sandy!! ;)

So let's try moving into the more mundane. Thursday was gymnastics day. For school, we played a phonics game to review all the long /a/ sounds we've been learning. I would read part of a sentence like "Put this card on top of your..." and then hold up a card with a word for him to read, like "brain" and then he would put the card where instructed. We had a lot of fun with that one. It's amazing how easy it is for him to read when he's not stressed over a sentence or a paragraph. When does that skill come? He reads single words so well, but the sight of a paragraph sends him into an anxiety attack. Anyway, it was a lot of fun and we still have word cards stuck all over the house.

Next I tried getting Cameron to move on in his math book. The next lesson was adding three numbers, like 3 + 4 + 4. Not what I would call a success, lol. Three plus four? Seven. Plus four more? Forty-four? Um, no. Seventy-nine? Now you're just guessing. Oh... is it thirty-six? No, it's eleven! Oh, what was three plus four again? I gave up fairly quickly and printed out a worksheet from that worksheet generator I downloaded a while back. (There's a joke on each page! What does a cow read in the morning? The Mooospaper!) He stared at it for ten minutes and then I just gathered it up and brought it to gymnastics with us. Once he finally decided that he was just going to have to do it - without my telling him the answers - he finished the whole thing in less than 10 minutes. Twenty problems in 10 minutes! I think that's pretty good.

Friday we spent most of the day at the park with our preschool friends. The weather was odd. One minute it would be sunny and about 65 and the next minute the sky would cloud over, the wind would start blowing, and then it would rain for all of 5 minutes. And then it would be sunny again. We had a great time though. It had been way too long since we made it to this park day.

On the way home, Cameron said, "Hey we haven't done my schoolwork yet today!" Heheh, looks like my new 5-Days-of-Schoolwork=Free-Video-Games-on-the-Weekend rule is working! So we came home and he did another math worksheet. This time I made it a little harder and the only problem he gave me grief on was 8 + 8. He said that one was too hard. *Roll eyes* He still finished the whole sheet in about 10 minutes though.

I was going to have him do Spelling or something too, but for some reason I decided to make homemade tortillas to go with dinner so I had just enough time while those were resting to read the first chapter in MPH Science 3B. The Theme is about cycles and this particular chapter was defining the life cycle. I didn't really think he was paying much attention because he was playing with LEGOs and watching Cassia play on at the same time, but it turns out that he really was. While I was reading he kept putting his LEGOs into color patterns (that was how they introduced the concept of a cycle) and then during dinner he just kept popping up with random things he could call a cycle, like mother-father-baby and baby-child-teenager-adult. I'm willing to bet that he will bring it up again tomorrow too. I really like the topics in these MPH books. They're just detailed enough to give them real knowledge and pique a greater interest.

The entire time, from when we got home from the park until dinnertime, Cassia was playing on Starfall. She is obsessed. I think it's all the songs and sound effects appealing to her auditory nature. Cameron always liked the "Who am I?" game. He likes the games where you get to *do* something. It really is a site that has something for everyone. If she keeps this pace up, she'll know all her letters and their sounds by the end of the month.

That's about it from here. There were a couple carnival rides being set up at the fair grounds on Thursday, so we'll probably cruise by there tomorrow and see if they're running. Last year around this time, I promised the kids that we could go and ride a couple rides one day but when we got there, the rides were gone. Cameron was crushed. I was crushed. It was so sad. It was so sad that Cameron actually remembered and told me that we better not wait too long this time. I'm going to be in trouble if they've packed up already by tomorrow. Have a nice weekend. :)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Fire house!

We got to tour the Fire House today! It was really a great tour - much better than the other "open houses" that we've been to before. We got to see the laundry room and the kitchen and even our tour guide's bed with his dirty laundry on it, lol. They had one of the fire fighters slide down the pole for us! He told us that they used to let people slide down it until one year, at a Christmas party, they let Santa slide down the pole. His costume and padding were just too slippery and he had zero traction. He basically just fell from the second story and broke his leg. Poor Santa. I bet those firemen got lumps of coal in their stockings that year! They let the kids climb all over the truck and touch the fire suit. We learned the difference between a fire truck and a fire engine (the truck has the ladder!) and we learned that of the 4000 calls they took last year, about 200 of them were actual fires.

So what subject does that count as? Is that Social Studies? Or perhaps Health & Safety? I only ask because I was counting it as one of Cameron's two to three required subjects to earn his video games, lol. About 45 minutes before we had to leave for the tour I quick shoved his math book at him and told him that he had to hurry up and do his math now since I had something that I had to do after the tour and wouldn't be able to help him later. He fussed and fretted and sighed and slowly made it through one of two pages in the exercise. So rather than let him off easy, I told him to bring it along in the car to finish on the way! And guess what... it worked! He did it!! And he did it with much less fuss and less "help" than he usually needs! I guess it was just the novelty of doing it in the car, but man that was so painless! I may have to find somewhere far to drive every day so that he can do his math in the car. Maybe it's just the fact that he's strapped down? Somehow, I get the feeling that it wouldn't work as well to strap him down in his dining room chair. LOL!

And that was it for school today but here is my big news.... our new history encyclopedias came in the mail today!!!!!! I am so stinkin' excited! I cannot wait to sit down with them and plan out the next 8 years, lol. I got The Usborne Book of World History and The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia. I actually hugged them when I took them out of the box. Yes, I am a dork. I know. The best part is that I got them for free! My dad have given each of the kids a $15 gift card to Barnes & Noble for Christmas. I had been debating whether or not to use them for the encyclopedias because the prices at B&N are so much more than Amazon or Rainbow Resources, but they sent me a coupon for 15% off and I got free shipping so I was able to get both books that I wanted with 65 cents to spare. :) Yippee!! OK, off to invoke the "do as I say, not as I do" rule and go read during dinner. ;)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What is 4-H?

OK, I've had more than a few comments lately asking about 4-H and what it is. I admit, it is starting to take over our lives, lol, so let me explain a little.

4-H did start out as an agricultural thingamajingy - yes, that's the technical term ;) - but as modern communities started moving away from the country and into the cities, 4-H started changing their focus from agriculture to community. The four H's stand for head, heart, hands, and health. The pledge surrounds these things which are the heart of a worthwhile life: I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living for my club, my community, my country, and my world.

While there are agricultural projects available to participate in at the county level, the main focus of 4-H is to learn by doing. There are all sorts of random categories into which you can fit your project (project= group activity totaling at least 6 hours of time in which the kids learn something), but basically a project can be anything of interest. Right now, Cameron is in Arts & Crafts, Hiking, and LEGO Engineering. Our club also has projects on Carnivorous Plants, Cooking, Polymer Clay, Geocaching, and Digital Photography.

Our club is unique though because it is comprised solely of homeschoolers. Because of that, we tend to do things a little differently. Our meetings are during the day instead of afterschool. Our projects tend to be more hands on and less schoolish. The organization does publish curricula but we generally choose not to use it. We also have a lot more parental involvement than some of the other clubs. A friend of mine went to a project from another club in our county and was sorely disappointed because all they did, she said, was sit and read to the kids from a book. LOL. There were all these "optional activites" listed in the book, but the project leader told her that those were for them to do on their own. I guess they just didn't have the kind of parental involvement necessary to do a lot of extras.

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that at one point I was attempting to get a pre-schooler's co-op going. My attempts got me nothing except a couple of good friends, but I've discovered that 4-H is the co-op that I had been searching for. Next year I'm going to lead a project on Ancient Technologies to coincide with our Ancient History studies. Why? Because I can. ;) One of the leaders even said that she has a friend who could give a demonstration on fire making for us! I may even do a cooking one for younger kids - the current one is for ages 8 and up. There are lots of opportunities for the taking.

Speaking of opportunities, and the other reason that 4-H is such a great thing for homeschoolers, is that the meetings are completely member led. The kids run the meeting, give the reports, can lead the projects, etc. They get practice in leading, following, giving speeches and reports, sitting still (lol, yeah right), and respecting others. All the group/public issues that homeschoolers may be lacking in can be addressed. There are also optional record books which (besides giving practice in reporting) can be used as part of your child's transcripts.

OK, have I gushed enough? I can't believe I ever doubted joining, lol. I hope I have cleared up a few questions and haven't just confused you all more. ;) Here's the state's info page - it's pretty vague. I think the best quote I've heard is that 4-H is what you make of it. If you're active and involved it is a wonderfully enriching experience. :)

Catch up

Don't you just hate when you're typing up a blog entry and the baby accidentally restarts the computer and you lose the entire thing??? Me too. He's lucky he's cute.

So, where was I? Oh yes, Maria, so sorry to keep you in suspense. I hate when you keep checking and rechecking and rechecking a friend's blog and keep finding the same old boring page. So here's a new boring page for you all. (If I can keep the little monster away from the power cord.)

Thursday was gymnastics. It was Bring-a-Friend Day in Cassia's class and she brought a friend named (drumroll please) Cassia! I just thought it was going to be the funniest joke ever to play on her coaches. I mean, who would've known that there were two Cassias in the world much less that they would be friends? But apparently, I was the only one so amused by that fact. None of her coaches even mentioned it. They were VERY cute together though. They looked like little twins because by some twist of girly-girl fate, they both happened to wear the exact same shade of concord grape leotard and lilac sweat pants.

Friday was Cameron's LEGO Engineering Project in 4-H. First they built towers and tried to see who could build one the highest. One boy built one almost as tall as he was! They learned a bit about stability and structural integrity as their towers came crashing to the floor. Next they built these little trolley type racers that sped along a string on a pulley wheel. They built them and tested them and rebuilt them and tested them and rebuilt them again and tested them again and again. Finally they were ready to race and I am proud to say that Cameron's racer won every heat except for the last one against Project Leader Dad. Of course, this is probably because he used the same design for his racer that Project Leader Dad used, but there's no sense in reinventing the wheel, right? A good student follows the lead of his teacher.

Cameron had such a good time building those racers that Saturday I went out and bought him a Klutz LEGO set of his own. He and Cassia spent all weekend building racers of different sorts and racing them on the laundry line. They learned about balance and center of gravity and friction and drag and all sorts of things! It was very educational fun.

Monday, DH had the day off from work so we went on a hike in the Armstrong Redwoods. We had a great hike and everyone was cheerful and pleasant to be around. A perfect day out. Cassia and Greyson both fell asleep on the way home and as I was laying on the couch contemplating my eyelids, Cameron brings over his schoolbooks and wants to work. *YAWN* We revised our "no video games unless you do schoolwork" to "free video games on the weekends if you do school every day during the week," so he was eager to not miss a day. We did a couple workbook pages in science on choosing the right material for the right job. He really enjoyed that one. Next he did Lesson 3 in Spelling Workout, matching pictures with the same first sounds. Finally he finished off a math exercise that we started a week ago but left half done in favor of some much needed drill work. The drill work apparently helped a lot because he finished the page with ease.

Tuesday, we did school nice and early. It is easier to get him started now that he has the expectation that we are going to do it every day. We did a lesson in phonics on "ea," "ei," and "ey" as long /a/. This was the last lesson in the long /a/ sound, except for one final review game and I think Cameron will be happy to move on to long /e/. Actually, he won't be happy until we are done with phonics, lol. He reads really well now. He just doesn't want to. Too bad! ;) At the end of the lesson was an optional activity where he got to illustrate and label the paragraph that he had read in the lesson. He really got into that. It's nice that even though he says he doesn't like phonics, he does still like the games and activities. He just doesn't like the dryness of the regular lessons, I guess. Next he did a math exercise on subtraction from 10s... 20-7, 30-4, etc. This was where all that practice playing Pyramid really helped! All I had to do was say, "Think about 10 - 7 first. What does 7 pair with to make 10?" and he could do the problem right every time.

While Cameron and I were working on that, I sat Cassia down in front of Starfall. This was her first time to this site and she was enthralled. She spent probably an hour or an hour and a half just going over all the letter sounds. Of course Cameron was very distracted by it too and we took frequent breaks so that he could watch what she was doing, but I didn't mind. If only I could get him that interested in reading a book. Or maybe just reading the computer? I do most of my reading on the computer so maybe he just needs his own computer to motivate him to want to read. Hmmm.

Anyway, that's my big, long-awaited update. I will try to be a little more on the ball so that I don't have these huge novels as entries all the time. LOL, who am I kidding? I still have novels when I update everyday, they're just more detailed!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

No news is, well, no news

Happy Valentine's Day!!

Nothing much to report on the schoolfront. Tuesday we went to our 4-H meeting and Cameron gave a report on the Community Service Committee which he and I chair. He did pretty good. I whispered what to say in his ear and he said it in the microphone. Remember how I practically had an anxiety attack over this report last month? Well this time, since I was the one behind the scenes not the one in the starring role, I was fine. I probably drew much more attention to myself this time, yet I didn't care in the least. Funny how the brain works sometimes. Later in the meeting, Cameron had to get up again and report as part of the new LEGO Engineering project. One of the other boys had a bit of stage fright so Cameron kept leaning over and whispering in his ear, just like I had done to him, lol. It was so precious. I hope he didn't scare the poor guy off public speaking forever though. After the meeting was adjourned, we did our community service project for the month. Everyone had brought in three dozen cookies to exchange and bag up for donation to the local food kitchen. We packed up about a million little packets of four cookies each and then stapled them shut with a little Happy Valentine's Day from Madrone 4-H tag. It was a bit chaotic, but it went well.

Wednesday we were surprised by a wonderful Valentine's Day present. DH took the day off work to be with the kids and let me have a little time to myself. First though, we had to take our cookie donation to the "soup" kitchen. Cameron and I took our giant bag of cookies in and presented it to the staff. I could see that they were genuinely touched to receive our offering. I guess most people don't think of the homeless when they want to do a charitable act. Most people would rather not think of the homeless at all. Anyway, it really felt good to see the kitchen, see the people who would serve our food, see how much they love their jobs. Originally, I thought it was a pretty silly act of charity, but I really saw its worth today. So many of those people have nothing to look forward to at all.

Next we went to Grammie's house and dropped off C&C. She wanted them to come over to make Valentines for DH and I. They had a really good time with her, which is a relief after Greyson had given her such a hard time during the tea party. Meanwhile, DH, Greyson, and I headed to the grocery store and then to our favorite drive through for a romantic lunch without the kids, lol. By the time we got home, Mom had already called and said they were done and ready to come home anytime. DH went and picked them up and then took them to park day so I could have my few minutes of quiet time. It was nice for him because he not only got to spend a relaxing day playing with the kids, he got to meet some of the names that he keeps hearing around the house. I wasted most of my time on the internet, lol.

So those were the highlights of the last two days. I think we are going to follow up those 5 days in a row of school last week with 5 days in a row of no schoolwork this week, lol. Oh, one more thing... I think DH and I had our first parent-teacher conference today. He asked how Cam was doing and what subjects he was working on and what we were going to do next year. It was a nice talk because there were no undertones of you're not pushing him hard enough or anything. He was just genuinely interested in what we were doing.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Going to Errand's

Well, no chance of a solid 5 days of school this week! I just had too many errands to run. If my title confuses you, here was our conversation this morning:

Cameron: Where are we going today?
Me: Oh, lots of places. We have a lot of errands to run.
Cameron: Who's Errand?
Me: Errand's not a who. It just means things we have to do.
Cameron: Oh. (pause) Cassie!! Come on, we have to go to Errand's now!

So we spent most of the day running our errands, one of which was signing Cameron up for t-ball! I am so excited. I am more excited than he is, I think. From the tiniest baby, Cameron has just loved baseball. We have a picture of him at 16 months hitting a baseball off of a make-shift tee (it was an overturned Tupperware, I think) with a little wooden bat that Grandpa J had given him for Christmas. He was good. He's been hitting pitched balls since he was two. Unfortunately, I dropped the ball last year and didn't sign him up because our friends in the next town over told us that t-ball started at 5. But that was Little League t-ball and our town doesn't have that. We just have it through the Boys & Girls Club, which starts at age 4. Oh well. Cassia and Greyson can play at 4. Anyway, that starts in April. I hope I don't have to rearrange my schedule too much to accommodate it.

Cameron spent the rest of the day playing with his Zoob building thingies. They are so cool. You can really make some amazing things with them. I'm going to call that science today. It will also qualify as following directions and fine motor skills training. I just saw on their website that they're designing a teacher's resources page, so there ya go. Everyone thinks they're educational!

We did do some actual schoolwork yesterday. Cameron did another page on the "ai" pair as the long /a/ sound. He was being a fidgety goof almost the entire time, but he did really well on the reading part when he finally got around to it. For math, since there was no way *I* was sitting there a second longer ;), I just pulled out the flash cards and did a speed drill type thing on 0+0 (up to 0+12) through 4+5. Basically, the first/easy half of the deck. He did GREAT! I was amazed at how much better he did than the last time we tried it. That week of pyramid really paid off, I think. I'm going to have to look into some more math games because even though he is a diligent workbooker, he learns much more from the hands on.

Cassia did some math on Sunday too. DH worked with her in her Earlybird book and they did the page on 8's. Yep one page and then she said her arm was too tired to write anymore. Oh wait, no, that was after half of the first of two rows. DH made her finish out the row and then let her quit. LOL, he's such a pushover. ;)

And that's about it from here. Nothing too exciting, as usual.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Another One (or Two) Bites the Dust

Yes, the mysterious and sudden puking flu has attacked again. It was me last night and Greyson this morning. Blech.

But let's not dwell on that. Let's celebrate a rare occurrence.... Cameron did school EVERY DAY last week! Five days of school! It was like pulling teeth some days, but we did it and he doesn't hate me. Well, he did hate me last night because I started to get sick about 15 minutes after we finished his math and I wouldn't let him use his hard earned video game time. The couch and the tv were MINE and I wasn't about to give them up. I told him he could use it today, but he still hasn't asked to.

Thursday morning, his stomach was still having some "issues" so we decided to skip gymnastics but we did manage to get some schoolwork in. Cassia wanted to play the map game but she didn't want me to read her the country names, lol. She just liked randomly clicking until her 3 wrong answers lit up the right one. So while she did that, Cameron did Lesson 2 in Spelling Workout. Like I said before, it's really easy right now, but once it gets into spelling he's supposed to be reading words that I'm not sure he'll be able to! Things like "right" and "friends." Not that those are the spelling words - they're just words in the paragraph that he's supposed to read that contains the spelling words: tub, bus, bat, see, sit, and us. I'm pretty sure he can spell all of those. Actually, I'm pretty sure he'll do just fine reading the paragraph too IF I can just convince him to do it. For math we played pyramid again, but he spent most of his time designing the discard pile into a roller coaster. Yeah, what was that about a kinesthetic learner?

Which reminds me, I happened upon this website with tips to teaching to the different learning styles. The tips that they give about the eases and challenges of the different learning styles makes me pretty confident that the quiz that I mentioned in a previous blog entry was right on in its assessment.

Friday, we took a long overdue trip to WalMart. Nothing too exciting there except that suddenly Cassia wants all the Barbies. That's a really new thing. When we went to go spend a gift card right after Christmas she had no interest in them at all. But I guess that since she's three-and-a-half now, she's a big girl. (Funny how writing that age looks so much younger than she seems to me. I guess that's a good thing for me to remember.)

DH came home from work early, just after we had returned from the store, so I took advantage of that. I dumped Cassia and Greyson into his care, grabbed Cameron and his phonics book, and locked us in my bedroom for a while. Quite a long while actually. We started a new section on different spellings of the long /a/ sound. The lesson was on "ai" as long /a/ and Cameron really had a conceptual difficulty with it at first. He was all like, why??? Why don't they just write it with a silent e?? But he finally got over it and we had a good discussion about homonyms. He was starting to get fidgity and so I stopped the lesson for him to do some jumping jacks, lol. He did 100 of them! But unfortunately, it only seemed to make him out of breath as well as wiggly. After we finally made it through the whole 3 pages of the lesson (which I am pretty happy about that!) we came out to play a couple games of pyramid. This time I held the discard pile and the game went much quicker. I think we'll go back to PM-1B next week and see how this addition review has helped.

Tomorrow we are supposed to go to a birthday party. I'm considering just dropping the kids off there. C&C aren't sick any more but I still worry that they might be carrying contagious germs still. I left it up to the Birthday Mom, but she hasn't gotten back to me yet. We'll see. Hope everyone is having a good weekend.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Speed of Life

I'm sure you're all assuming that since I haven't updated recently that we haven't done anything. Although that is usually the case, it is not this time. Life has just seemed to have gotten in the way whenever I wanted to blog. In fact, at this very moment, I am typing one-handedly whilst holding Mr. Cranks on my hip. Mr. I-Am-Going-to-Scream-if-You-Even-THINK-of-Putting-Me-Down. Mr. Working-on-Tooth-Number-Three-and-a-Cold-at-the-Same-Time. Mr. Giant-Baby-Hugs.

But on to business... Monday, we did, in fact, end up playing that geography game. Cameron loved it. I wish it had an audio option so that I didn't have to sit and massacre every foreign place name for my little non-readers, but I think we all are learning a lot from it. I am following Globalmania's recommendations and only working on one continent per month - I guess I should add that to our curriculum list then, shouldn't I. But if we keep moving forward with this, we will have all of our geography down just in time to start History in the fall.

Tuesday, I spent most of the day working on our tax return so school got put off until the evening again and patience was in short supply. See a trend here? Cassia worked on drawing the numbers 5 through 8 and somewhere along the line decided that she couldn't do it unless I drew dotted lines for her to trace every single time. Yeah. It shouldn't be a big surprise to find out that we didn't end up doing very many pages of that. ;)

Cameron did three-quarters of a page of math but the fact that he couldn't remember any of his basic addition facts was really hindering the lesson. I decided to back off of the workbook for a little while and just work on some drill type things until those facts are a little more firmly set. I guess that worksheet generator that I downloaded the other day will come in handy! He also read a review page on long vowel words. It was like pulling teeth, I'm telling you. And yet when he drops all the drama he can read so well. I had intended on doing some science too but after the ridiculously long time spent trying to get through phonics, I didn't have the patience to attempt any more school than that.

And then Greyson developed a 102 fever that wasn't responding to Tylenol and was coughing and breathing really rapidly. A breathing treatment and a two hour nap in my arms thankfully seemed to fix the worst of that - but that's where my blog time went Tuesday!

Wednesday I tried to get school started early but it was one of those days when C&C were playing together SO nicely that I just didn't have the heart to disrupt their play. Besides, my frozen baby food stash was dwindling so I needed to spend some time making that anyway. Somewhere around noon we played a couple games of Pyramid for math (thank you to whomever it was who suggested that! Mary?) which went really well. By the end of the third game, Cameron didn't even have to count the number pairs he was just remembering 9&1, 8&2, 7&3, etc. I think that a week or so of that will do wonders. I had bread rising that I had to get shaped into a loaf, so I told him to take a quick LEGO break while I did that but couldn't manage to get him back to work to do his reading until almost 4:00. It was another page of long vowel review and another long ordeal with a lot of whining.

Halfway through the story that he was supposed to be reading, he started saying that his tummy hurt. It seemed like the same "tummy ache" that he gets when he doesn't like what I made for dinner. But I was kind and let him go lay down until he felt better. He came back about 10 minutes later, read one more sentence (veerrrryyyyy slowly) and then went to go lay down again. At this point, I knew that it was a real stomach ache but I thought that he was just stressing so badly about having to read that he was giving himself an anxiety stomach ache (DH is famous for those!). He said that sitting up to read made his tummy hurt and so I told him that he could take the book to the couch and read there. He did and finally made it through the whole thing.

About fifteen minutes later he comes running in from the living room saying, "Hey Mommy, I know why my tummy was hurt...." and then wretched all over the dining room carpet. Yeah. I know why his tummy was hurting too! So that combined with lots of mopping, carpet shampooing, and laundry was our evening. Poor guy was miserable all night long and couldn't even hold down water but seems to be doing much better today. Cassia had had a similar thing on Saturday so apparently this thing has a really long incubation period. I'm expecting Greyson to start puking on Friday or Saturday. No, he'll probably wait until Sunday when we're at a birthday party. ;)

I'd still like to get some schoolwork in today, but maybe only a game or two of pyramid and a couple of stories. That all depends on Mr. Cranks though. Excuse me, King Cranks-a-lot. ;) (Don't worry, I'm much more sympathetic to their faces.)

Monday, February 05, 2007

Download frenzy!

I have been on a download frenzy lately!! I cannot believe how much cool free stuff there is out there. Besides our free music curriculum that we got through a deal at Homeschool eStore, I've recently acquired a free geography curriculum through a a deal at KnowledgeQuest which is based on a free geography game that is way too addicting. (Cassia and I were having a great time guessing the flags of different nations. It was more a game of who could remember the correct answer once they told it to us, than a test of any actual knowledge base, lol, but it was fun. Worse yet, that site also has an online Yahtzee tournament that I also spent way too much time playing last night, lol.) This morning, as I was browsing one of my favorite Classical Homeschooling Messageboards, I found a link to a free math worksheet generator. You can never have too many of those, right?

I've always been afraid to download for fear of corrupting the computer somehow, but DH has officially given me the Vaio to corrupt as I please, lol. I held off for awhile, but I just can't believe the deals I've been finding lately! Besides, when it's free, it's free! I also found some notebooking templates and so many ebooks that I can't even remember where I got them from - much less what they are!! LOL @ me! I guess I'm going to really need to sit down and organize my bookmarks and my files. Luckily, I've been smart enough to throw most of my school stuff into a single folder, but I have a feeling that there are still a few things floating around lost on my hard disk.

Anyway, with all this cool new stuff I figured that I had better get started doing some schooling today! Cameron chose reading, spelling, and science for today. He meant to choose math, spelling, and science but said it wrong and I wouldn't let him change his mind, lol. For reading he did a lesson on adding "s" to the ends of words. He did great. I don't know why he resists it so much! Next we started our new spelling program: Spelling Workout A. It arrived on Friday night and I never once hyped it except to say, "Look we finally got your spelling book!" There's just something irresistible about new stuff. Technically, we are supposed to wait to start it until we are past Lesson 115 of OPGTR - today we did Lesson 82 - but who am I to tell the boy that he cannot practice spelling if he wants to? That recommendation assumes that you will be doing both phonics and spelling every day though. I'm going to aim for phonics 3 to 5 times and spelling 2 to 3 times a week this year. Next year we'll try doing both (along with grammar and math) every day and I'm sure we'll be caught up by then. Spelling Workout starts off very slowly though. Lesson 1 was just practice in identifying the first sounds of words and practice in writing the letters A through N. One great thing is that Cameron really put a lot of effort into trying to form his letters in the exact right way with the correct placement on the line and everything. That's a first! Cassia was working with us in identifying the starting sound of the words and although she couldn't name the letters that were making the sounds, she was able to give me other words that started with the same sound. It was a good family learning moment. :)

Next we moved on to science and did one workbook exercise on the properties of materials and one activity book activity on identifying materials. I was very conscious of not putting any undue pressure on him to know the right answers. Instead of arguing, we floated blocks in the bathroom sink when he told me that wood would sink. I just laughed when he suggested that the tool shed was made of rubber and that the refrigerator was made of clay. Cassia was actually quite good at picking out things made of certain materials because she wasn't afraid of going for the obvious - rubber bands are made of rubber, toilet paper is made of paper, cloth napkins are made of cloth. I had to draw the line at "babies are made of plastic" though. ;)

But it was a good day and we finished with three subjects by 1:00. That's got to be a record for us. Hopefully I can sneak in some math or geography games later or maybe even another unit in music - it's been a couple weeks since we've done that. Greyson is sick again so I think we may be stuck at home for a few days... might as well take advantage of it!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Polite as a Princess

Success! Our Good Manners Tea Party was a complete success! We hosted two little ladies and one little man for an afternoon of tea, or some representation thereof, finger sandwiches, cookies, and good times. I was so impressed with what a good host Cameron was! He was flitting around between guests bringing them sandwiches and lemon slices and napkins when they spilled. He said "please" and "thank you" and "may I offer you" and I was quite proud. Cassia really enjoyed putting sugar into everyone's tea (and her mouth) and even did us all the supreme favor of skipping her usual run around the living room with her panties around her ankles after going to the bathroom.

At one point, Cassia also kind of surprised me by begging me to read the Princess book of manners to everyone. I felt like the children's librarian with a crowd of preschoolers pushing in to see the pictures, lol, but it was nice to bring a bit of themed learning into the situation without seeming like I was pushing it on anyone. I was a bit nervous about that because MomK is an unschooler. They came for a party, not a class, you know? But her daughter is a Princess fiend and was definitely front and center for the read.

The funny thing about the afternoon was that once all the greetings and formalities of service were out of the way, everyone just kind of sat in their seats, politely, and stared at each other for a while, lol. I guess I forgot to go over small talk. It's not one of my strong points anyway. And what examples we mothers were! We sat at the "grown up table" swapping ER horror stories, lol. Not quite polite tea party small talk, but hey, we're moms. It was either that or discussing dirty diapers. ;)

Speaking of diapers, Greyson went over to Grammie's house for the party. The kids were sitting at the coffee table and I just didn't want to have to deal with him crawling around and trying to pull everything off the table to teethe on. My mom had been begging me to leave him with her sometime anyway and it was really nice to be able to spend two hours focused on C&C. Unfortunately, Greyson was not as thrilled with the situation and cried almost the entire time. Poor Mom looked like she had been run over by a truck by the time we got there. I guess we won't be doing that again. The little bugger was an angel for me the whole rest of the day though. Even with a diaper rash so bad that it bled(!), he never cried as long as he could see that I was there. Can you say Momma's Boy? Kidding, of course. I'm actually thrilled to be his whole world... if only he would go back to sleeping in his crib for more than 2 hours at a time.

Anyway, after our luncheon and baby rescue we all went over to the local Park Day. It was kind of fun because the boys went in one car and the girls in another, lol. So funny how something so trivial can be such an adventure, lol. I was thinking how great it would be to kind of join my two regular homeschool park groups together (the tea party guests were regulars from our Friday park day) but NO ONE was there! I guess now that it's winter, no one wants to play in 40 or 50 degree weather even if it is sunny. It must be an age thing because the Friday preschool group gets together regardless of temperature because those little bodies just NEED to get out. I guess the older crowd at Wednesday's park day is less willing to sacrifice comfort for fun. Regardless, we had a fabulous time playing and spinning on the spinning things. Cassia, such a big girl at the tea party, suddenly became helpless again once my arms were full of baby. Coincidence? I think not. But we played all afternoon long and finally parted with tears of "but I still want to PLAY!" which is always nice to hear.

No schoolwork has been done since Monday. I spent Tuesday cleaning (not that you could tell, lol) and making sandwich spreads. Today, Thursday, I doubt we'll get any bookwork done either because it's already 11:30 and no one is dressed yet and we have to go to gymnastics in an hour and a half. This weekend we're off on a little mini vacation to BIL's house and then a Super Bowl party at some old friends'. Friday DH is going to take the bus to work and after a trip to a really cool science museum near his work, we're going to pick him up and head out to BIL's house from there. So it'll be a pretty busy weekend and I'm just going to have to chalk this week up as practical learning. :)

Happy Groundhog Day!