Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I think I can, I think I can..

Day three and we're still going strong! I admit it, the chore chart is for me more than for anyone. I need to see what needs to be done. I need all the little boxes filled in. I need accountability. And it's working! At least it's working for the big stuff. I've done all my morning chores for three days now, I've kept the laundry at a manageable level (apparently that means two loads a day, every day), and I've had the kitchen completely clean each night before I go to bed. There are really only a few more things to tighten the leads on and I will be extremely happy (and PROUD) of myself. Yeah me!

And when I've kept up on the things that I need to do, it's much easier for me to enforce The Law on the other members of this house. I always felt a huge pang of guilt telling the kids to clean and do x and y when I knew I wasn't doing everything I should. Granted I was still doing a ton, but when I was falling short of my own expectations it was very hard to expect anyone else to come close either. Now I can say, "Have you made your bed yet?" and feel good knowing that the answer is yes for me too.

So today everyone was done with their morning chores and into their schoolwork by 11:30 - and that's even with the respective morning veg outs in front of Bakugan and Facebook. Cassia started out with reading Green Eggs and Ham in a closet. She said the rest of the house was too loud, lol. I had her read that out loud to us yesterday and I guess she really enjoyed it. She was very proud that she read it this time completely in her head. Greyson was playing around on Starfall. He loves the stories on there but any time I suggest that he "do school" or even look at a book that wasn't his idea, he completely shuts down. He was looking at animal pictures online once and so I went and grabbed a couple of our kid's animal encyclopedias thinking that he would love browsing the pictures in those too. Well, he got so offended (?) at my suggestion that he wouldn't even continue looking at the pictures online. He huffed off and spent the next hour in a bad mood. Now I just let him explore things as he sees fit with NO intervention. Kids are so, um, challenging sometimes!

Next C&C each did one math exercise each. Cassia started another (because she got it in her head that if she does as many as she can each day while Cameron only does one, she might pass him up soon, lol) but only got a couple problems into it before she got distracted by Greyson playing on Starfall. We also read a couple chapters from The Phantom Tollbooth (they finally got to Digitopolis!) and a chapter of history. We read about Mohammad and the beginning of Islam. I learned a lot in that chapter that I hadn't known. Too bad the library is closed until next week because I'd like to get a couple more books on it before that spark of new interest has waned.

Now everyone is relaxing. Cameron is playing games on my iPhone. Greyson is watching vintage Porky Pig cartoons. Cassia is coloring fairies and singing "Deck the Halls" super, super loudly, lol. Linus is exploring and I am catching up on blogs. Now it is time to move on to my afternoon chores. Maybe today will be the day when I can actually check off every box. :)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

So far, so good!

Well, I did it. I revived the old chore chart and added a section for Dinner time. Cameron helps with dinner Mondays and Thursdays and with the dishes Tuesdays and Fridays; Cassia helps with dinner Tuesdays and Fridays and with the dishes Wednesdays and Saturdays; Greyson helps with dinner Wednesdays and Saturdays and with the dishes Mondays and Thursdays; and Sunday anybody is free to help with anything (or I also reserve the right to ban everyone from helping if I so desire). So far, Cassia has been the most enthusiastic chef, never leaving my side and constantly asking "What can I do now?" and Greyson has been the most enthusiastic dishwasher. He was eager to begin, a quick learner when it came to rinsing advice, and very, very hard to get away from the sink when we were done. Cameron was a good sous chef but would do one thing, leave, and then wait to be called back. The jury is still out on his dishwashing skills. I suggested that he get a head start on his job by putting the prep dishes in the dishwasher (which I had already gone ahead and rinsed, by the way) and he just gave me that "Do I have to?" look and disappeared. That's pretty much par for the course with his attitude in general when I ask him to do anything. I'm willing to bet that's just pretty typical 8-yr old though. What he needs to learn is that he can't just slink away. He has to do it. He is starting to get the message, I think.

The rest of the chart is going well too. Cassia is a dynamo and had almost all of her morning chores done before 9am. WTG, Cassie! Cameron has been doing the bare minimum and pretty much only when he's forced to. Greyson is avoiding the whole concept and going with the view that if he doesn't acknowledge it, it doesn't exist. He's three, so I'll let that one work for now.

Schoolwork is on the chart too and I really like having it down on paper so I can say, "See, it has to be done!" Math is always first and foremost and Cassia has been great lately with forging ahead and doing two or three exercises at a time. Cameron does one, or two if they're really short. A month or so ago, things were much different. I couldn't even get Cassia to finish a page without her dissolving into frustrated hysterics. It's strange, she gets these nervous tics - noises, stutters, and fidgets - and she wasn't doing them at all then but she was getting ultra frustrated ALL the time. Now she's recently started the tics up again but she has more focus and determination in what she does. If I had to pick between the two, I'd definitely take the tics over the hysterics.

Most of the rest of our schoolwork comes from 4-H lately. We try read history and science a few times a week, but it's really hard to find time when it's calm enough (Greyson and Linus) to sit down and focus. I have high hopes that we will be finding more time soon though. One of our 4-H Projects is a book club. The book for January is The Phantom Tollbooth and we've been having a great time reading that. I really enjoy the wordplay and Cameron, especially, thinks it's hilarious. We had a project meeting today for the Money Project. The kids learned about goods and services and where to find those things in the neighborhood, as well as how to lead people to them using a map.

OK, I'm sure I had something more eloquent to say in there somewhere but my thought process got interrupted and now the house is filled with the screams of one who is not very happy with his new molars that are coming in. Linus barely slept at all last night and he's been screaming a LOT today too. I really hope he decides to sleep tonight....

Sunday, December 27, 2009

This is the post...

This is the post where I say, "My New Year's Resolution this year is to blog more regularly." LOL. Yeah, ok. I've said that about dozen times this year, at least. But honestly, my New Year's Resolution is to make my computer-time quality time and not just a means of wasting time. And for me, that means blogging. Less Facebooking, more blogging. Less digging for gossip, more reading all those interesting newsletters that sit in my inbox unread because I can never find the time. (And yet I can find the time to play endless games of Scrabble rip-offs and build up an imaginary zoo online.) More time doing the stuff that expands my mind and opens my heart and less time numbing my mind. More time doing stuff (or learning about stuff) that I can share with the kids and less time looking for a means to escape them.

Yes, I admit it. I use the computer to escape the noise and the chaos of this house. But guess what? They just get louder and more chaotic in response. My New Year's Resolution is to engage and take back the joy in my life. It's been a busy and stressful year. I've been yelling and snapping too much and playing too little. I always feel like I'm behind on everything and never have time for the fun stuff because the not-fun stuff is always in the way. So again, I say, it's time to engage and take back the joy in my life. Just DO the crap that I've been avoiding and then I will have time for the fun stuff. And cut down on the evening tv. What a waste of time.

One of Cassia's Christmas presents was a bunch of Mom-made mixes for her Easy Bake Oven. I found recipes online and bagged up single serving baggies of several different treats for her to make (pizza dough, pie crust, cookies, brownies, tea cakes). Then I took material from some recently outgrown clothing and sewed them into little drawstring bags to keep the different mixes in. Finally, I tied laminated recipe cards to the drawstrings and Voila! Hours of fun for only pennies. But the best part of this project is that I realized how wonderfully relaxing it is to spend the evening sewing instead of vegetating in front of the tv. I've been wanting to start quilting for quite a while now - even bought some supplies - but didn't realistically think I'd ever get to it with all the little ones around and "so little" time. I suddenly found a whole bunch of time! And Linus was just enthralled with watching me sew. He didn't get in the way at all and just sat there all wide-eyed making cute little sewing machine noises, lol.

Another thing I've learned in the last couple weeks is that rather than nurturing the kids' curiosity, I've been inadvertently squashing it because I've felt so overwhelmed and behind. They're always asking to help make dinner, something I think is immensely important, and I keep pushing them away. Greyson especially. He's so eager. But he's three so his help is usually just more work for me. He said to me the other day, "Mommy, how come you NEVER let anyone help you make dinner?" And he was so sad and frustrated when he said it too. It really broke my heart and I realized that they are always asking to help and I'm always telling them no. No more.

I want to make up a Helping Schedule. Each child (of able age) will have one night to help cook, one night to help do dishes after dinner, and one night off. I think that they will have a lot of fun helping to cook and will also, hopefully, learn that part of cooking is cleaning. I fear that I've slacked so badly in teaching them to clean. It's something that I had to learn as an adult (and am still learning), so it's hard for me to make them do something that I never had to do. But I also know that it was a huge detriment to me and I'm hoping that they will avoid that fate.

I'm feeling that I also need to make a Chore Chart of some sort but those haven't had much success around here. The one we had that lasted the longest was a dry-erase chart with a few basic things in morning, noon, and night sections and then also a "Do 1 or 2 Extra Chores" section in each time slot where they could pick little things that were necessary and slightly more fun to do, like dusting the blinds or wiping off the doorknobs. Cassia, especially, really liked the extra chores. I could bring that one back out and then add the cooking schedule to that.

So hopefully, with a little more organization, a little more focus, and a little more fun, 2010 will be a fabulous year. It will be the year when Greyson reaches a more rational age (4) and when Linus will be the only whirlwind toddler. If I can only keep the older ones acting more like older ones and less like toddlers, lol, we'll be Golden. And hopefully, I will find time to blog.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Happiest Vacation on Earth!

Ahhhh, we just got back from the BEST vacation. Seven days away, six nights at a Fort Wilderness cabin, 4 days with The Mouse, and 1 day lost in space at the Kennedy Space Center. I could've stayed another week, I think, but it is nice to be home. A nice side benefit is that my mind is still on Florida time even though my body is in California. I got up chipper as Chip-n-Dale at 6am and have a ton of morning time left before we have to do anything today - which gives me time to blog! Now, if I could just get the kids back on Pacific Time (Linus woke up, ready to play, at 4am today) while I stay on Eastern Time, I'll be golden.

The flights went better than expected. The kids were really, really patient considering what they were being asked to do: 1.5 hrs from northern California to Seattle, an hour layover, 5ish hours to Orlando, then another 40 minutes on a bus to the resort. We left the house at 8am and checked into our lodge at 12:30am (yes, midnight). Lonnnnng day!

The cabins were FABULOUS. The kids had their own room - bunk beds, a double bed, and a portable crib all fit comfortable in the bedroom - and we took the fold down bed (You know, those ones that hide in the wall? What are those called?) in the living room. We had a full kitchen and a charcoal bbq and a picnic table out front. The only thing that could have been improved upon was the quality of the "trading post." They claimed to have supplies there, but there really wasn't much of anything besides souvenirs and beer. But there was a WalMart within a couple of miles of the place so it wasn't a huge tragedy once we had a car. (Yes, I bought food at WalMart; something I said I'd never do!) The resort restaurant, The Trails End, had really good food though, was open until 10pm, and they even had take-out. Our last night there we went to Chip and Dale's campfire and sing-along. Very fun. Big thumbs up for the Fort Wilderness Lodge and Campground (yes, a real campground was available too!)

The first day we went to Epcot. We had a great time. I heard from several people that it was huge and might be really boring for the little kids but it wasn't at all. It was really a homeschooler's dream, lol! We all loved the slow boat rides through history and through the different countries. The marketplaces were fun. The food, wine, and beer was great. The kids had a blast getting their passports stamped at each country... until they lost them. Cassia lost hers with only two stamps to go. She was heart-broken. Cameron waited until his was completely full before losing his. *roll eyes* But the fun was in the collecting. I should be glad that's two fewer things to mess up their rooms, right? They also had this really cool thing where certain parks stay open up to three hours late for resort guests so we just flew through the last few things and took another ride on our favorite attractions with no lines at all. It was especially easy since it was our first day and we were all still on Pacific time so staying until midnight was no effort at all for C&C.

The next day was not quite as successful. We tried to get up early and go to the Magic Kingdom after staying up until 1 am. Not a good idea. We overslept and decided to skip breakfast. Worse idea. By 11 or 12, everyone was cranky and crying. We had issues with the rental car we needed for Friday and need to leave the park early to pick that up. Lots of tears. And then on the boat back to the resort (sooooooo cool to take a boat back and forth!), Cassia's beloved Minnie Mouse ears blew off her head and into the lake. OMG. For twenty or thirty minutes all we heard were the desperate and tortured cries of "My Minnie hat!" Heartbroken does not even begin to describe it, even though we instantly promised her a new set of ears. Eventually she calmed down, but WOW. Getting the rental car itself was an adventure. The driver who came to pick me up got lost on the way so I didn't get the car until almost 6pm (even though the place closed at 5, lol) and then *I* got lost on the way back! I guess that's another improvement that I'd like to see at Fort Wilderness: lit signs! By the time I got back, we decided to just spend the night in and rest up for the next day when over-sleeping was not an option.

Friday we drove across the state to see the Kennedy Space Center. This was another place that I had been warned might not go over well with The Little Ones and The Girl but it was a huge success. Another homeshooler's dream! We took the Up-Close Tour and rode a bus out to the VIP launch viewing areas, the vehicle assembly building, International Space Station clean room, saw the crawler, and got the closest possible view of a shuttle on the launch pad. THAT was surreal. I didn't think I'd be so impressed with that but it was amazing. They had one of the best play structures I've ever seen, second only to the pirate cove at Legoland. Linus was not thrilled with all the bus riding, but Greyson had such a good time looking at all the rockets that he wants to be an astronaut when he grows up now. Firefighter is just not exciting enough anymore. ;) Cameron had a BLAST. Cassia got a little bored at times, but she still had a really good time overall. Overall, it was WELL worth the side trip. It was also nice to get a little different view of the state... and all it's toll roads, lol.

Saturday was originally supposed to be our "hang out at Fort Wilderness" day, but since our Magic Kingdom day turned out to be such a flop we decided to try that one again. We got such an early start that we were too early for the first boat over there but we took a boat over to the Contemporary Resort instead where we hopped on the monorail. Greyson loved that! He's a train man. Before the park even opened we got Cassia her new Minnie ears. Those ones did NOT get lost. ;) Once we got in we headed straight for Fantasyland and did all the rides before the lines got long. That was about all Greyson could handle. We could see the sanity just leaking out of his little head and the maniacal three-year-old seeping in. We still had to return the rental Bohemith (Suburban, lol) and Cameron had a 2:45 appointment on the archery range so we headed out at about noon once again, but this time with a much more satisfied feeling. After I returned the car (and did not get lost coming back) we hit the pool for an hour, let Linus nap while we had leftovers for lunch, and then Cameron went to archery and Cassia and Greyson had a pony ride. Next was an early dinner at Trail's End and then the little boys stayed home with Daddy (and were both asleep by 7:30!) while I took the big kids back to the Magic Kingdom and boy did we have fun! There were still virtually no lines and we hit up just about everything we had missed. I think the only ride we didn't go on was Aladdin's Magic carpet and Space Mountain (which was closed) and we did our favorites (Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain) twice. We did miss a few shows that we would have like to have seen, but we left feeling like we had thoroughly done the place. Overall impression - fun, but Disneyland is way better. It was nice to actually be able to do everything in one day though.

Our final day was spent at the Animal Kingdom. DH originally wanted to skip it, but we talked him into it. We were all very pleasantly surprised with that park! To me, it felt like real Disney magic there. The Magic Kingdom felt a bit like a cheap copy of Disneyland, but this was the real thing. I was transported to other worlds and very impressed with the message of conservation and respect for our world. And Expedition Everest rocked. Cameron went on it 4 times. First DH went with C&C and I got us all Fast Passes to go later but the line was so short that we decided I would go ahead and go with C&C then too. But Cassia didn't want to go again. So Cam went once with DH, once with me, and then again with DH and again with me using the Fast Passes. LOL, he tried to talk us into going again later too! Greyson got his first big/fast ride there on the rapids. Apparently, he LOVED it. It'll be nice when we don't have to keep splitting up to go on rides so someone can watch the little ones. Again, we did everything except the Nemo show and left feeling good and tired.

We finished up the night roasting marshmallows and singing campfire songs with Chip and Dale and then called it an early night in preparation for our big travel day home. The bus picked us up at 5 am (yawn). That means we got up at 4am... 1am our time! The wonderful thing about that though is that just about everyone (except Cameron) slept on the plane. It is a much shorter flight when you are asleep. This time we got on the plane at 8:30am and were back in our home county by 4:00 pm. Gotta love gaining 3 hours! But we were all asleep by 8:30, lol, and up this morning before 6:00. Oh well, like I said, it gave me some time to blog. And now we have arrived at the time I would normally be getting up so I guess I should get ready for the day.

I hope I can continue to get up early (while convincing the kids to sleep later) to enjoy a little bit of me time each day. I really miss my daily mind dumps - so therapeutic. ;)

Friday, September 04, 2009

Time flies!

OMGoodness, I cannot believe I've let another week+ go by without blogging. And I thought I was doing so good. Hmph. Well, to the inquiring minds that wanted to know... YES! The car trick worked amazingly. Cassia sat there pouting at her math book for TWO hours. I finally said, "OK, it's time for us to go pick up our meat order now." I could see the relief (as in, I won, now I don't have to do it!) pass over her face and then I said, "Grab your math book and get in the car." To my surprise though, she said "OK!" and happily grabbed it and got in the car. She had the entire problem set done before we even got to the gas station down the street. Literally, less than five minutes. Weird. And that was that.

This last week has not been quite so productive. The kids have been sick. I broke my toe. (Insert sympathy here.) So we've done spelling, and some math, and Harry Potter maybe once or twice, and that's it. Next week the new 4-H year starts. There are some amazing sounding projects lined up. I think we're going to be very busy!!

Dinner is on the stove so I better go attend to it! I'll try to be better next week, I promise!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Back in the Saddle Again

Now that we are in week two of "Fall" (if you can call mid-August fall), we picked up a couple more subjects again. Yesterday, in addition to spelling, math, and literature (i.e. Harry Potter), I officially started Cassia on phonics a la The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading. Wow, what a difference in waiting until a child actually shows you that they are ready instead of forcing it upon them at "the right age" and then just assuming they'll pick it up as you go. They don't. Much, much, much easier to just let them learn and explore letters, sounds, and words via Starfall, Bob Books, Dr. Seuss, and whatever else strikes their fancy and then pick up the formal rules and regulations once they are already reading a little bit. She and I whizzed through about 5 lessons yesterday and another three or four today. She's reading confidently and enthusiastically, unlike Cameron who did those same lessons grudgingly and dragging his feet the whole way.

We also added science back in. We studied light and transparency and did a couple of really fun activities holding different materials up to a light bulb and qualifying how much light came through. We've agreed to do science Mondays, Wednesdays, and then Fridays if we have time.

History is also back on the table. It had been so long, I completely forgot where we were, lol. Turns out we were on the Byzantine Empire. I still have no scanner though, so I'm going to really have to think ahead to go out and copy the maps and coloring pages at Staples or something. I'm also going to have to get my butt back to the library soon too. I'm just going to have to bite the bullet and drag everyone in there because I can't imagine when I'm going to have a chance to go by myself. DH has been working weekends and will continue to do so until mid-September. I hate taking the little ones in, but I also hate not having that resource.

Cassia decided that we also needed to add grammar back in to our days. She really missed the poems and silly little exercises in First Language Lessons. Sure, why not. I'm not going to argue that one!

So that was our day today and yesterday. Cameron spent all of his free time today making up a golf board game. He drew 18 holes and wrote the distance and par. He made a bunch of little cards too, but I'm not sure how you play yet. I came up with the idea that you could hit little Lego dots along the courses to get your score. I hope we can play after dinner.

Cassia is having a major crisis at the moment. She was all gung ho about the her schoolwork today until we got to math. She kept saying that she didn't want to do it, so I put it off until last but she is just sitting there crying and pouting over a handful of subtraction problems that would take her all of 10 minutes if she would just do them. I've tried everything: walking her through them; sending her outside for a 5 minute exercise break (She refused to exercise too. She just sat next to the sandbox wimpering.); giving her the option to clean her room instead; telling her that we weren't leaving the house until they were done even though she has a soccer game tonight. I just don't know what to do. After all this fussing, I don't feel like I can say, "Fine, don't do it." I don't like being manipulated. Greyson does enough of that on his own. He will just flat out refuse to do something he doesn't want to. He gets a little leeway with that because he's three, but I'm getting less and less tolerant of the behavior because it is getting out of control. So, in order to show everyone that I am to be taken seriously, I don't feel like I can give in here. I'm not being mean or getting angry; I'm just refusing to let it slide. Probably a battle that was not worth fighting from the start, but I'm kind of bound to it now.

We have to go pick up our meat order now and it's a bit of a drive. I think I will make her take the math with her and do it in the car. My friend, K, says that her kids can always focus better in the car for some reason. Less distractions, I guess, and something about the buzz and rumble of the road. We'll see. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Welcome to Fall!

I can't believe it is mid-August and school is back in session already. I mean, the way the weather's been it's hardly seemed like summer at all! One week of 100 degree weather, two weeks of 60 degree weather, and then one week of 100 degree weather all over again by which point my kids are all sick from all the temperature changes! But at least this means it will once again be safe to go to the park and the library.

I haven't blogged the last couple weeks, not necessarily from flakiness, but because it was our in between Summer & Fall break. The first week of August was all about getting ready for Cameron's birthday party. It was an Indiana Jones theme and turned out to be a lot of fun. We had treasure hunts and treacherous tricycle rides where you had to dodge an onslaught of water balloons, lol. The second week of August we went camping way up high in the mountains so that we could have a clear view of the Perseids Meteor Shower. We went with several other homeschooling families that we know from 4-H. It was so fun. I definitely think it will become a yearly tradition.

In the midst of camping, we took a day off to go to the San Francisco Zoo and see the new baby chicks join the rest of the colony. Cameron is an adoptive parent of the penguins and so we had a special invite to come witness the March of the Penguins 2009. There were several news crews there and I happened to notice one of the cameramen taking special notice of my little ones. And looky, looky what I found on the internet...

Watch the video and keep an eye out for a cuter than cute Greyson near the end, chewing away on his fingers in rapt attention.

Our local elementary schools started yesterday, so I'll say we did too. ;) We started the school year out with roller skating! There were still quite a few older kids at the Tiny Tot session, so I'm guessing that a lot of the neighboring schools haven't started quite yet. Our learning experience of the day: one of our friends found a $10 bill on the ground! Rather than hoarding it to himself, he put it into the change machine and split it with his sister. She in turn split it with another girl and bought some candy which they then shared with Cassia. The boy who originally found the money used his to play a game of pool with Cameron. It was a great lesson on generosity (and division!).

After that we came home and the kids did some work on their 4-H record books which were due last week. Ooops. It took a ridiculous amount of motivating to get them started. In fact, I didn't do a very good job because they only grudgingly got through half of it. I was pretty frustrated because I thought that that was the VERY last day we could turn them in. Luckily, we had a reprieve as I had gotten the dates wrong. One more day! So today we got up bright and early (well some of us did - Greyson didn't wake up until 9:30 and Cassia didn't get up until almost 10!) and resumed work. Cameron was having a hard time motivating himself again but we switched focus and did the part of his record book that he could dictate to me, instead of writing himself. He told the story of his 4-H year and really got excited about the things he had done and what he had accomplished. That made finishing the rest up really easy. Cassia is still finishing hers as I write this.

A couple weeks ago, Cassia asked if Greyson shouldn't be learning his letters and numbers now too. I said no. I'm definitely anti- pushing preschoolers and Kindergarteners now. I kind of feel bad for all the stuff I tried to make Cameron do when he was that age, lol. Oh well, live and learn, right? Anyway, in my quest to let the Little Ones just absorb I decided that I actually had been neglecting Greyson a little bit. So I've been trying to read to him more lately and I've found that that has been attracting the big kids to my side too! :) Today I decided to officially start introducing letters to him and started reading the Cat in the Hat Beginning Book Dictionary to him. This brought Cassia to my side and she started reading it to us instead. She's really doing well with reading. I'd like to pick up phonics with her again because I think she's truly ready now to do it without getting frustrated.

We read the Aa and Bb entries and part of Cc and then they got bored and wanted to read something else. Cassia ran off to get a couple Bob books. She read one and then Greyson ran off to get his own Bob book... he came back with a Bob the Builder book! LOL. Cassia ended up reading four Bob books and I read another couple board books to Grey. We were all very snuggly and comfy. It was nice... especially because Linus was napping the whole time. ;)

Cameron wrote his spelling words and then looked up the first three. He still hates doing it, but he's much faster. I explained to him how much it's helped his spelling, and reading, and penmanship and I think he is seeing the value in the exercise a little more... rather than it just being a case of me being evil. Bwahahahaha. ;) He had spent the entire morning doing his recordbook and then playing Timez Attack for a long time, so I called that a school day. Cassia wrote her spelling words three times each. She needs to spend a little more time working on letter form, but she's doing pretty good.

We dropped off our record books, had a mini-playdate with the leader's kids, and came home to curl up with Harry Potter. We only have a few more chapters left in book three. We'll do number four, I've decided, but I'm still not sure about five. Six and seven really should wait, I think, but will Cameron let me?? He's really into them. Next we'll do something a little shorter, like Huck Finn or Treasure Island and then maybe we'll try Narnia. I'm finding that finishing up our schooling with a nice read aloud is a good motivator for me to get things done each day. Motivating Mommy is always a bonus. :)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Summer - Weeks 4 & 5?

I've lost track of what week it is, lol. I wonder if that's a good or bad sign?

We've been chugging along. Last week Cameron was the one who got 100% on his spelling and Cassia only got 33%. The words are getting harder though. Cameron is now PAYING ATTENTION to the words and thinking about them. WooHoo! I'm having Cassia write each word three times each day now. She's complaining a lot about it but I really believe that you need a physical-mental connection for writing it correctly before it will sink in. We'll see if she does better this week.

We've also added a new read aloud to our daily curriculum. Last Wednesday was Cassia's 6th birthday and one of her gifts was the complete Chronicles of Narnia (abridged) on CD. We've been listening to it in the car and the kids are absolutely enthralled! I am so thrilled about that. They play Narnia when they come home and Cassia took a box and turned it into a magic wardrobe for her dolls. She cut out trees and a lamppost from paper and drew in the snow. So cute! And the BEST part about our Narnia obsession is that Cameron happened across our paperback of the collection and decided that he wanted to read it! He got up early and read the first chapter of The Magician's Nephew before I was even out of bed. He even made himself a bookmark. I think this is the day that I have been waiting for his entire life. :D

I always wondered how people could simultaneously read more than one book without confusing them but I guess I just never tried it! We are having no trouble at all enjoying both Harry Potter and Narnia. We have just five chapters left in The Chamber of Secrets and no plans to stop reading the series until we're finished! (Cameron and I went and saw The Half-Blood Prince last weekend and he wants to know what's going to happen next. I told him that he's just going to have to read the books to find out!)

Our other newest summer time indulgence is the swimming pool! I know, not really a novel activity for July but we just never really got into the whole public pool thing. BUT we've found a gorgeous little pool about a half hour away that is fed from a natural warm spring and tucked away between the oaks. We've been meeting some of our park friends there and let me tell you, it is heaven. The days just melt away in the sun and laughter. There are actually three pools so there is something for everyone. The only hard part is getting them out of there!

And now I need to start cracking the whip on the spelling work that is NOT going on behind me so that we can read our Harry Potter for the day!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Summer - Week 3

D'oh! Has it been over a week again? Bad me. We were out of town Monday though, so that day shouldn't count.

We've kept up with the spelling, math, and Harry Potter every day. The spelling definitions are PURE torture. It took Cameron two hours to write three definitions, two days in a row! Ugh. Of course, if he hadn't been using fancy crazy writing then it wouldn't have taken so long. Whatever. It's his choice to take forever if he wants to. Seriously, six definitions in two days isn't too much to expect. (Do I sound like I'm trying to convince myself? Is it working?) But I think it's paying off.

Not really much else to report! Cassia started her new ballet class Tuesday morning. It's much more disciplined but she still loves it. It's the Pre-Threshold class, for 6-yr olds with prior experience. New 6-yr olds would go into the class she just left. Next year will be Threshold and the next she would start the numbered levels that promote by skill rather than age. She's really grown up....




Thursday, July 02, 2009

Summer - Week 2

Well, week two is just about at a close and I have to say that, aside from my cold, it's gone really well. We continued on with spelling, math, and reading aloud just about every day. Tuesday was an exception because the kids got it in their heads to write their own Harry Potter books. Cameron's was called Harry Potter's Book of Werewolves and Other Things. He filled it with pictures and descriptions of favorite things from the wizarding world. Cassia wrote one called Butterflies and Fairies which she filled first with the fairies from the Tinkerbell Movie and then from butterflies taken from a field guide. They literally spent all day working on them. Wednesday, after I made them do schoolwork first, they wrote second books! Cameron's was Cameron Potter's Book of Spells by Nicholas Flamel and Cassia's was Hermione's Book Book. Cameron's, obvioiusly, listed spells and their magic words. Cassia's was true genious though - she brought out practically all of our Dr. Suess and Little Golden Books, dumped them on the table, and copied the title and a picture from her favorites. And I think this was a 20 page book she made!

It was so funny though. Copying those spelling word definitions from the dictionary was pure and complete torture. You seriously would've thought that it was cruel and unusual punishment from the way Cameron went on about it, but when the writing was something he wanted to do? He wrote all day long for two days. Now, I know all my unschooling friends will remind me that there is no need to force them to do writing and spelling when, as they've just proven, they will do it willingly when they are interested but having to spell out every, single word for an almost 8 year old was too much for me. He really was seeming to have no sense of how to spell things at ALL and I can already see the improvement in just these two weeks. He's been keeping a chore chart for a Cub Scout badge and the entries were almost illegible three weeks ago, but this weeks was neat and orderly. Of course the spelling was atrocious because he couldn't read the words from the previous week's chart and didn't put a thought into how the word should actually be spelled, but we're working on it. While he was writing his Spell Book, he did actually make some decent efforts at spelling the words correctly before asking me for help.

Cassia finished her math book this week and started on Primary Math 1B. She was so excited to start the new book today that she did five exercises. The kids also took a spelling pre-test today and Cameron got them all right! Cassia missed two. One because she transposed the letters (sotp instead of stop) and one because she glanced at Cameron's paper as I marked it as all right and then changed one of her answers!! The funny thing is that it was right the first time and she changed it to be wrong. LOL. She was very upset to hear that. The child takes any lack of perfection very hard though. It was seriously tragic for her to get less than 100%. I think she might really be Hermione Granger!

And speaking of Hermione, we finished The Sorcerer's Stone today. As soon as I closed the book, Cameron grabbed it out of my hand and ran to replace it on the shelf and bring out The Chamber of Secrets. But then he didn't want to read it. ?? Cassia was actually the one who begged to start it and then to read "just one more chapter." I think my general rule is that I will not say no to someone who wants to read. It's not even a majority rules thing, like Cassia was insisting, it's just that it would be wrong as a homeschool parent to stifle a desire to read or be read to. If anyone doesn't want to listen, then the house is plenty big enough for them to find somewhere else to be. Of course Cameron didn't want to miss any of the story so he stayed and listened.

We're leaving for the long weekend tomorrow evening and I'm still up in the air as to what we're going to do during the day. Part of me wants to go to Park Day since it's been about three weeks since we've been there. But the saner part of me keeps reminding me that I have a miserable cold that got much worse after we went to roller skating on Monday and that we really should spend the day packing the car and such (seeing as how I'm blogging instead of doing that now). We also need to take those spelling tests, do some math, and read some more Harry Potter because I am really liking the consistency of working daily. So we'll see if sanity or desire wins out.

Have a Happy 4th of July!!

Monday, June 29, 2009

For Megan ;)

Ahhh, summer is here! The lazy days of summer. The lazy days of summer when we are accomplishing more schoolwork than we have in the last couple months!! We're on a break from most of our activities, with the exception of ballet for Cassia, violin for Cameron, and gymnastics for Greyson, and it is amazing what we can get done when we're not running all over town!

We started the summer out with camps. Cassia had a week of horse camp. She LOVED it and she she did really good too. Especially for someone who had never ridden a horse before. :) During that week, Cameron and I did a lot of math and a lot of science in her absence. It was amazing to me how the household dynamic changed. The next week Cameron had golf camp. He also LOVED it and did great. The household dynamic changed that week even more markedly. Cassia was so displaced. She just didn't know what to do with herself without him to play with! But we survived and I was even more determined to really "crack down" on the bookwork this summer.

And I have so far succeeded. Last week, every single day we did spelling work, math, and then read aloud. Every. Single. Day. It doesn't sound like much when I write it out here, but it really has been multiple hours of bookwork.

I realized that Cameron's spelling is atrocious. He has no clue how to spell anything, so I whipped out the old Spelling Power book and started over from the very first list: bus, bat, sit, see, tub, us. I'm giving both Cameron and Cassia the same words but varying what they are doing with them.

  • both take turns reading the introductory paragraph about the words.
  • both write list words.
  • Cassia looks up words in the Cat in the Hat Beginner Book Dictionary, laughs at the silly drawings, and tries to read the silly example sentences.
  • Cameron looks up words in the Webster's Children's Dictionary, reads all the definitions and usage examples, and copies the most relevant definition to his paper.
  • both write list words again
  • Cassia does fill-in-the-blank exercises from workbook.
  • Cameron finishes looking up and writing definitions.
  • both take a pretest and write any missed word three times
  • both write list words again
  • both take test

Cassia is doing great with this whole thing. She got 100% on both her pretest and her Friday test and it really seems to be helping her reading take off too. Cameron is already struggling. *sigh* He complains the whole time about the definitions and has trouble reading words in the dictionary that I really think he should be able to. He wrote all of his "B"s backward on the pretest (a totally forgivable error, but still) and then spelled "sit" with an "e" on the Friday test. Argh. I'm really, really hoping though that this just shows that he really needs to be doing this. I remembering doing this in third grade, so I know I'm not expecting too much of him.

Anyway, after that we do math. Cassia is just finishing up the last couple review sections in Primary Math 1A. She's been flying through this book. Cameron's made some big strides too, though he rarely does more than one exercise a day. He claims to love long division so that is very good news, lol. I guess no one has told him that it's supposed to be hard and he's supposed to hate it. ;) He's about halfway through 3A. Now, if you look back in my blog you'll probably see that those are the exact same books they started the year with, but like I said before, we've been so busy with "stuff" that we really haven't had very much time to do anything else! Cameron's also been playing a lot of Timez Attack, and of course there's good old-fashioned life learning too. I feel so guilty sometimes that we don't have more to show for our year, but they really did learn so much and did so much.

The last thing we've been doing each afternoon is some summer reading. I really want them to find pleasure in books, so I wanted to read something fun. I gave them the choice of Robin Hood; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; Charlotte's Web; or Harry Potter. Guess which one they picked. So we are reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone again. They are being great listeners though. This is really the most successful read aloud we've ever had. We are reading two chapters a day and I'm optimistic that by the end of the summer we will make it through at least two, if not three, of the series.

And so that's what we've been up to. Today we started the day with roller skating and then came home, ate lunch, and got right to work. Cameron has been complaining bitterly about having to write the definitions again but, oh well. Cassia actually finished looking up all of her words before even got halfway through his first definition so she moved on to some Explode the Code work. She's already completed book 1 and just started book 2 today. She just loves it. Cameron hated that series. It's funny how different they are. This week I'm hoping to add some science and/or history into the mix too. We'll see. Honestly, I'll be happy to just keep this up for another five days straight. ;)

We'll see if I can keep up on the blog too. I've missed you. :)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

It was a great day!

Yesterday was a GREAT day!

...until dinner. OMG, what is it about dinnertime that drives them absolutely BONKERS and then sends me over the edge. By the time DH got home I was seriously spewing smoke out of my ears and shooting lightning bolts from my eyes. Gah. Tell me other kids do this? Tell me that it's normal for children to lose their sense of hearing and respond to nothing but their sibling's maniacal giggle. Tell me that they will outgrow this and I will survive!! OK, enough venting. I feel better now.

So since last time... Thursday was ballet where we signed up for the Annual Student Showcase. Did I tell you about that? They're doing a full ballet called The Enchanted Garden and each class gets to be a different flower. The exciting part is that it's a real production with a dress rehearsal and publicly sold tickets and everything. Should be really fun. Friday was Favorite Park Day. Man, did we miss that! Between sickness and the weather it had been over a month since we'd been able to play.

Saturday brought the first Little League practice of the season. I think it's going to be a great season. The coach really impressed me for some reason. I haven't even talked to him face to face yet, lol, but his level of organization and contact is a thousand times better than our coach last year. The scary thing is that we also signed Cassia up for tee ball this year. I know Cameron's games will all be at one of the three fields at this one park and I'm hoping that Cassia's games will all be at the elementary school across the street so that if we do have game overlap during the week (when I can't count on DH to be home to drive one of them) it won't be too tragic of a situation. Of course it's also possible that I'm going to end up dropping poor Cameron off by himself and then driving Cassia all over town for her games, but I'm hoping for the best. And he won't care either way. And there is a parent on the team that we know from last year with a little girl that Cassia is good friends with, so I'm sure she wouldn't mind keeping an eye on him if need be.

The rest of the weekend was pretty chill. At one point, Cassia got out her phonics book and started working on it. Cameron said, "Cassia, what are you doing?? It's the weekend! You don't have to do school today!" I wonder if that difference in attitude is simply because I had put more pressure on him to do school every week day or just a difference in personalities?

Monday we went to gymnastics and as I was digging through the school bag to find something for Cameron to work on while we were there, I realized that I never got out his new math book! All that build up to finish the old book and then we forgot to get the new one out, lol. Yes, unschoolers at heart, all of us. So we did science instead. He started a workbook page where he was supposed to rearrange phrases to make a logical sentence and then find the word that it was describing. The first sentence was "Only plants / can use this energy / from the sun / to make food." That was actually a great lesson because we got to discuss sentence mechanics too - two subjects in one! The workbook didn't have enough space for him to actually write the sentence out (since it is a 4th grade book and his writing is still 1st grade size) so he wrote it on the only paper I had in the bag - story paper! Of course this prompted him to draw a picture to accompany the sentence and then, since it was science, he labeled all the pictures. So that made it art and spelling too. And he never did make it past the first sentence but I think he got quite a lot out of it!

Tuesday we went to another Odyssey of the Mind practice and the kids rehearsed again. They're doing a fabulous job and I can't wait to see what the final creation is going to look like. The kids seem to really like it too. I wonder if this will spark a love of acting/theater? Our 4-H project for the day was canceled due to the sickness of the leaders. That's the problem with being the first ones sick. Once we're better and want to do stuff, everyone else is sick! I can't remember what we did instead. Did we watch a movie? Play a game? I really can't remember. Hmm.

Wednesday was our day off from activities. We watched the Tinkerbell movie. We built with K'Nex. We finally started Cameron's new math book. The first lesson was numbers to ten thousand and he did great until we got to the "write the number in words" section. Does any kid like those? LOL. Those last four problems took a crazy amount of time. Cassia did three or four lessons in her math book in that time. After they finished their math, we read two of the last four chapters in Story of the World, Volume 1. Even though we haven't really done a lot of extra stuff in the last half of the book, we're still pretty much on schedule with our 5-year plan for the four volumes. So I'm happy with that. The next two chapters are on the fall of Rome and then after that I think we'll spend a week or two going through some of the myriads of Roman stuff that DH's aunt (a retired 4th/5th GATE teacher) gave me before moving on to Volume 2.

Today we spent the morning spring cleaning and then did an in depth phonics and grammar study - we watched The Electric Company on DVD. ;) Did you know that Bill Cosby and Morgan Freeman (OMG, he was so funky cool, rofl) were on that?? After lunch we went to ballet. During that Cameron did two exercises in his math book - obviously there was no writing of words involved, lol. Greyson had me read a couple books to him and then he followed one of the ballerinas around the studio watching her vacuum. He's such a nut. Cameron wanted to do history too but just then we heard the pitter-patter of little ballerina feet coming down the stairs. I planned to do it once we got home but they got distracted with K'Nex and I got distracted blogging and now I don't think we have enough time before baseball practice. Oh well. Tomorrow is another day. :)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Busy busy!

So as not to disappoint my loyal fan base of 2, I'll blog instead of doing something productive like laundry or grocery shopping or cleaning or bread-making or any number of a zillion other things.

We had a busy day yesterday! We started out with a really great Odyssey of the Mind meeting. It was raining (oh and we saw several of the most beautiful rainbows on the way there. I wish I could upload the pictures in my head to share with you!) so instead of working on the set and props like we had planned to, we went ahead and did a rehearsal. I can't remember if I mentioned it or not, but the challenge is to portray a candy factory that makes five different candies that each feature a healthy ingredient. The factory needs to have a candy maker giving out and describing samples and a comical customer who buys them, as well as machines and such.

The kids auditioned for the parts they wanted and Cassia was chosen as the head candy maker! Well, actually the three kids who wanted the part Ro-Sham-Boed for it and she won, lol. But she did a FABULOUS job. She stood behind the register and had to completely ad lib the candies and how they are made with a healthy ingredient. Everyone was pretty impressed. Cameron and another boy, E6, are her assistants who run the machines. The kids decided that the comical customer would be the oldest girl, C9, and that she would enter the candy factory with her kids, N5 and I6, who also happen to be the shortest and shiest kids so it worked out really well. C9 was a fabulous mother too. She is a natural ham, lol, but was also wonderful at prompting Cassia for the things she was supposed to say. The final member of the team, T6, who was originally only going to participate if he didn't have to perform, was the sound effects guy. He sits in a large box full of noise makers and makes the sounds of the machines. He also did an EXCELLENT job. All in all, I was extremely impressed with the kids. I had been getting a little concerned about how and if it was all going to come together and whether anybody was going to get anything out of it at all, but now all those fears have been put to rest. They're going to do great.

The coach video-taped the rehearsal and the kids loved seeing themselves on tv, lol. After we watched the recording and reviewed some of the things that might be better done (like not talking over people, lol) we all went out to McDonald's for lunch. Yes, you read right. We went to McDonald's. I still feel over-salted, lol. But the kids had fun. There was a huge indoor plaything and we've all been cooped up way too long, so that was worth it.

After that we rushed off to go pick up some farm fresh eggs from a friend and then rushed home to meet another friend who was bringing by some aromatherapy stuff. I love that I'm getting so much stuff lately from friends. I have a friend for eggs; one for aromatherapy sprays, bath salts, and the best all-natural hand sanitizer ever made; one for Arbonne which I am very quickly getting addicted to; and then I have our farm for veggies which feels like I'm getting them from a friend. :)

And then we rushed off again to mail some packages and get a PO Box for our homeschool group - both of which turned out to be a bigger ordeal than I anticipated! Apparently, PO Boxes are a hot commodity in this town and it looks like I'm going to have to go to a commercial post office to find one. So that kind of sucks since it is on the other side of town and not next to anything that I regularly go to... except the drive through Starbucks, lol. So that whole thing took a lot longer than I was expecting so we had to skip the grocery store and come straight home to shove some noodles and marinara sauce into our mouths and rush us out again to a Homeschool 101 meeting.

The Homeschool 101 meetings are something new that our chair has been organizing where new homeschoolers and those considering homeschooling can come together with veterans to ask and answer questions. This was the first one I've been able to make it to and it was fun to get out and talk shop. The dynamic was interesting though. There was one woman considering homeschooling and then 5 families who, like me, are still pretty new at this but also kind of feel like experts at the whole thing! LOL, so what we had was this one terrified and confused single mother being bombarded by 7 expert opinions by people who are really still newbies themselves. I wonder if we helped her at all. One person, in particular, I'm afraid was a bit intimidating and the chair had to keep redirecting the conversation away from what's wrong with schools and back to what's unique to homeschooling. But it was fun to get out and I hope I'm able to go again next time - though hopefully I'll be able to leave the kids at home.

Today we are making up for being so busy yesterday by being exceptionally lazy. C&C didn't get dressed until 1:15 and have been watching tv all morning. I really need to run some errands though so I better get moving. One of the things my friend dropped off yesterday was a spray that promised to focus the cluttered mommy mind so that one can prioritize and actually get things done. It worked yesterday but today I used it just before hopping on the computer and so it had the effect of focusing my computer time. In other words, instead of doing all the things I should've been doing, I just spent the last two hours uploading photos and blogging. I guess that's better than just wasting time on Facebook like I normally do, lol. I think I should ask her to make a spray that will instill the nesting instinct. Nothing like that pre-baby need to organize and clean up your life. Anyway, off I go. Nice chatting with you. :)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Now back to our regularly scheduled lives

Wow. That was quite an illness we had there. We suffered through everything, very slowly, one at a time, for weeks. Blech. I guess it really is better to only have one puking child at a time though, right?

This week has been spent getting us back to normal. Cameron has been v e r y s l o w l y making his way through the last two reviews in his math book and finally finished today. He's been reading here and there and he seems to really be getting better all the time. We've been reading books on dinosaurs and woolly mammoths. We've been watching documentaries on butterflies and submarines and Bill Nye the Science Guy on earthquakes. We've been listening to Vivaldi. We've been playing cribbage and 'Smath and Options (Scrabble with prism shaped tiles that you can flip).

Cassia has flown through her math book and her phonics book. She's on exercise 18, I think, in math after only a couple weeks. And you know we aren't doing book work more that a couple times a week. She just sits down and works for over an hour every time she does it. She's also about a third of the way through Explode the Code 1. It's amazing how well she is learning to read from that. Totally different experience than with Cameron. She's also been reading library books and doing Starfall. And the art... oh man, that girl is creative. She made the most amazing abstract drawing today. She says that it's a Spanish Chess board but it looks like, well, here let me upload it... (Egads. The effort of that and the distractions that followed have delayed my getting back to this for about 24 hours!) OK, nevermind, let me just say that it reminds me of a Picasso. Beautiful work.

Greyson has been Greyson, lol. He's been busy fixing everything with the plastic tool sets he got for Christmas and cooking with a combination of my and Cassia's dishes. He's amazing with sounds - animal imitations and voices and the like. He's also really becoming able to play *with* the other kids and understand their games. It's nice to see. Of course he's also able to express his displeasure with things too and he and Cassia, especially, have been clashing heads a lot. That's not so nice to see. But it's all part of growing up, I suppose.

After missing 4-H and rollerskating and gymnastics and the PARK for about three weeks now, it was really nice to be able to get back to some of those things. For 4-H Puppetry, we made these this week

Unfortunately, it was raining for our Valentine's Party at Favorite Park Day so it's been postponed to next week. Waahhhh! We REALLY wanted to go to the park. We were even going to ditch the 4-H Origami project to go but the weather just wouldn't cooperate. Some people suggested having the party at someone's house instead, but I think the point, for quite a few of us, is to get OUT of the house. Usually when we have these parties half the crafts and activities go undone because the kids are just too busy playing in the sand box and climbing trees. But it was okay because we had Origami to go to instead... until the project leader told us that her kids were sick and they had to cancel! So we went from having too many things to do on Friday to too few. We ended up going to the grocery store and doing laundry instead. Joy of joys.

We did get to go to the farm too though and it's been way to long since we'd been there. LOL, I was watching a show on the Travel Channel the other night and my mouth literally started watering when the host tasted some local cooked greens on his travels in Greece. I knew right then that it had been way too long since we had any good fresh veggies in the house! But now we are stocked and our menu for Valentine's dinner include Pink Beet Pilaf and sauteed dinosaur kale. Mmmmm. And on that note, I better get planning.

Happy Valentine's Day

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It's Spring, Time to Sing Vivaldi!

OK, it's not spring but it might as well be with the weather we've had the last few days! It was 68 and gorgeous today. Too bad the kids are still sick. They were well enough to play in the back yard though and they really appreciated that one.

Since they were feeling better though, I figured I should bust out the books. Cameron finished off the last regular exercise in his math book and is two-thirds of the way through the second-to-last review.

I haven't been able to find Cassia's math book ANYwhere!! It just disappeared. I have a feeling that it got left out somewhere and someone "put it away" in a rush and it's now residing in a random toy bin somewhere. I glanced at most of the bookshelves and didn't see it there, but we have a lot of books so I could have easily just missed it.

Anyway, I finally gave up and skipped her ahead to the Primary Math 1A book. I doubt she'll miss the last third of Earlybird 2B and if we do find it, she'll probably have a blast going back and doing it for fun. She was thrilled to start the new book. Of course the first chapter is ultra easy - counting to ten. But it does have something new in that it's asking her to match the numbers with the words. Cameron was never able to do that but I have a feeling that she's going to pick it up pretty easily. She's got a great memory for stuff like that, where as he - like me - needs the rules and reasons behind it before it will stick.

Another difference between the two of them stood out very sharply today. There was an exercise that asked her to color a certain number of objects. She happily and carefully colored each one a different color and proudly showed off each set to me. I remember when Cameron did that exercise - he HATED it!! He hated to color so much. When he did do it, he would just kind of scribble the picture out. I remember I finally just told him to put an X on them instead of coloring because it was such torture for him. So his 1A book is a big scribbley mess and hers is a beautiful work of art, lol. Nothing against not wanting to color though!! I totally get that that's not his thing and I'm okay with it, but it was nice to see all the beautiful colors today. It flashed me back to my own brightly and carefully colored worksheets of decades past. And in her enthusiasm, she completed six exercises and begged me for more but I told her to save a few for tomorrow.

After that I asked them if they wanted to read a history story or learn about a composer. Cassia had found the Classical Magic books the other day and was looking through them. I am embarrassed to say that I had completely forgotten about them!! LOL. Anyway, I thought I'd let them choose what else to do and Cameron said "Histoser." Cassia also chimed in with "Compistory." So I followed their lead, like any good homeschool mom would, and we did both. ;) For history we read about Augustus Caesar and the kids were thrilled to learn that both their birth months were named for leaders of Rome. We followed that up with the first few pages of Classical Magic and learned some of the characteristics of the Baroque period and then read a short biography of Vivaldi. I thought we would finish off by listening to a few clips of Vivaldi's Springtime. We have a couple of fun versions of the first movement so we listened to those and then I went to Classical Archives to play a more sophisticated version. To my surprise though, they wanted to listen to ALL the seasons! Mostly we just listened to clips of each, not the full movement, but we did sample all three movements of all four seasons. And then they went through and listened to all of the baroque period kid's songs! (From the Beethoven's Wig and Classical Magic serieses - yes, I've sorted them all into iTunes playlists - yes, I'm a geek.)

So that was a lot of fun. I'm hoping we can listen to some more Vivaldi in the next couple days and then read another biography or two on him. There is a second biography on him in Volume 2 of Classical Magic (why I'm not sure) and I have several online sites bookmarked. Hopefully the interest will continue because this really is something I've been wanting to learn about with them. Cameron also got some art and science work in today by using his How To Draw Dinosaurs book. :) He did a really great job. He's got a skill for drawing. Cassia has the eye for color, but he has the eye for line. He can carry a better tune too. I wonder if that's related?

If this is less than coherent or cohesive it's because I'm starving and am having trouble concentrating but wanted to get this finished before I move on to getting dinner finished. Homemade pizza tonight! I wonder if Vivaldi inspired me?

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Sickies Have Landed!

Ahhhh! We've been invaded by Sickies and let me tell you, it's no fun despite the fact that I felt no guilt in watching Kung Fu Panda at 7:00 am this morning. Greyson has been holding on to this cough and mild fever for a few days now and Linus has had a stuffy nose for a week but it all seemed to come to a crux for everyone last night. Cameron and Greyson both woke up in the middle of the night unable to breathe and needing a nebulizer treatment. Cassia woke up feverish in the night and decided to sleep on the couch. At sunrise her fever shot up to 102 and she instantly regurgitated the liquid Tylenol I tried to give her for it. Not a happy camper. She was able to keep down a melt-away tablet though and then some toast and tea. Everyone seems to be feeling better now, but I keep waiting for the meds to wear off and everyone to be miserable again.

The worst part is that we had a little girl over yesterday morning and I fear that she's going to be miserable now because of us. :( I'm watching her two days a week so her mother doesn't have to put her (just 2-1/2) in daycare. I think she would've been better off in daycare yesterday! I had left the mother a message the day before saying that Grey seemed to be getting worse, but she didn't get it in time. So now I'm feeling bad that I didn't try harder to get a hold of her or even turn them away at the door. Neither of us are ones to hide from germs, but still....

Anyway, enough of giving myself a guilt trip. Wednesday we spent the morning at the dentist. I have a broken tooth that is going to need to be pulled. *sigh* Luckily, there is a wisdom tooth right next to it that never surfaced so it should move right in to take it's place. Cassia had a couple of cavities starting in the back. Maybe now she'll believe us when we say tooth brushing is not a race, lol. The boys were fine. Of course. (I hate my teeth and one of my great fears is that the kids got my teeth. I guess I should be happy that it looks like it is just a girl gene.) Greyson was soooooo curious while we were there. He peeked into every office and asked the dental assistant about all the equipment in the prep room. That boy likes machines!

Then we came home and did two sections of science. We studied energy by watching a ball bounce and a paper windmill spin. We thought of all the different ways that a windmill can be made to spin and what the source of energy is for that. That particular unit is one reason that I am glad that we do follow a curriculum, however loosely. I never would've thought to do that and the kids really enjoyed stretching their brains to come up with solutions. The second section was about how the energy of the sun is the original source of energy for living things. (The sun gives it energy to plants which are eaten by herbivores which are eaten by carnivores.) I think we have touched on that concept before but it's still fun to go over it officially.

Next Cameron did some math. He's excited to finish this book and has been doing two to three exercises every time we do math so that he can move through it quicker. Too bad we are only doing it once or twice a week, lol. Also too bad that I didn't order our new books earlier to inspire this work surge. While he was doing that, Cassia and Greyson were playing on Starfall. Greyson was so into it. I wouldn't be surprised if he taught himself to read very early on.

I think that was all we did before the heebie jeebies and hacking started creeping in. Thursday we didn't do anything except watch T2 in the morning. Cassia and Grey did a little on Starfall and Cameron built a lot with K'Nex, but mostly we just watched movies. I'm wondering if I should mark that as an official "sick" day. I do like to keep track of days when the kids are truly too sick to do school in our attendance records but don't Starfall and K'Nex count? On a healthy day I would say, "Absolutely!", but when they're sick it's just a relaxation activity. I know, I know. All my unschool friends are shaking their heads and wanting to smack me about now, but I can't help but ponder such things and classify it all. If we had read a book or two I would consider it all school, but we didn't. I really wanted to too but no one was in the mood. We have James and the Giant Peach here that we were doing really good at reading for a while but then it got misplaced in the back of the minivan and we got out of the groove of reading it. I'd really like to get back to that and if I can manage that today I will count it as a school day.

In other plans, I would like to bake some bread today and maybe make a lamb stew for dinner. I have some library books of my own that I would like to get to. One that I'm particularly interested in is on whole grains and the other is a pressure cooker cookbook. It's a cold drizzly day today so we aren't missing much by sticking around the house. Yesterday we did miss Parent Watch day at Cassia's ballet class - the one day a year that they let the parents in - but there was no way she was up to it. Hopefully everyone will be better by next week. We have a big week planned including Star Week at gymnastics! Star Week only comes once every 8 weeks and is the only way they can advance. I know they'll be crushed if they can't do it.

OK, enough rambling from here. I just wanted to make sure that I got more than one post in this week. :)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Happy Inauguration Day!!!

WooHoooo!!!!!! First and foremost, CONGRATULATIONS and WELCOME President Obama. I know many of you are not as thrilled as I am but I am very hopeful for a time in our country's history when everyone can work together for a change and not just bicker about right and left.

Secondly, yeah, I know... two months. I'm not even going to apologize or promise to do better. We'll see if do or not. ;)

Cameron and Cassia started a new venture today. They joined an Odyssey of the Mind team. It is the only homeschool team in our region and it's our group's first time doing it! Exciting stuff! Our coach though, had coached another team before and is VERY enthusiastic about the whole thing. She really seems to know what she's doing and I'm really looking forward to it. I had to laugh though when we walked into her house today. She is the first person I've met who really lives up to that homeschool stereotype. Their garage had been converted into a schoolroom with posters and charts all over; science projects half completed here and there; boxes of manipulatives and toys neatly stacked ALL over the place; Christian posters and paintings all over the house; lots of little chairs and desks; a carpet with the United States on it; and even a plaque with the School Rules printed on it (which her son made sure to read to us so we knew them!). It was very quaint and picturesque and I'm actually surprised that it's taken me so long to meet someone who schools that way!

If you don't know what it is, Odyssey of the Mind is a problem solving competition where multiple teams work on solving the same problem and then present their unique solution through a skit or other presentation. The winning teams can then go on from the regional competition to state, national, and international competitions! (The K - 2nd grade teams don't actually compete but still get to present at the regional competition.) Through this they learn problem solving, teamwork, budget management, public speaking, etc, etc, etc. Uniqueness is rewarded and the adults must stay strictly hands off.

We had our first team practice today and I know the kids learned oodles of stuff. They learned how to brainstorm ideas and then voted for their favorite ones. They learned to not criticize ideas that were different and to not be too disappointed if their idea wasn't chosen. Then they had a little acting lesson and acted out a strange little song using a mystery emotion which the other kids had to guess. Cameron took to it instantly and everyone guessed his emotion, proud, right off the bat. Cassia, surprisingly, was a little shy and the coach, MomH, had to perform the song with her. The crowd got it in two or three guesses, but it was a tough one: love! The best part was that there is one boy on the team, T6, who says he'll only be a part of this if he doesn't have to perform. We agreed that he can be the "behind-the-scenes" guy. While the other kids were acting out the song, he was in charge of picking who would go next. Well, when everyone was done he was having so much fun that he announced "The only one who hasn't gone yet is me!" and did his own version of the silly song. He had a moment or two where I thought he might freeze up and change his mind, but he didn't and he had a lot of fun doing it too. Yay! Maybe he will change his mind and want to be a part of the performance too.

After practice we headed to a friend's house to pick up some farm fresh eggs. It was our first time there and OH, what a lovely place they have. The chickens were, dare I say, adorable and there was something very soothing about their clucking. I really never anticipated that one! Their feathers were absolutely gorgeous too. We fed them some corn, collected a few freshly lain eggs, chased down the family ducks, and then finally settled in to taking over the backyard, lol. They had a zip line (which Cameron was too heavy for and pretty much hit the ground as soon as he jumped off the ladder, lol) that was a huge hit and a neat plank swing in a neat old tree. The weather was gorgeous - sunny and mild - and the time to leave came all too soon. No one wanted to go.

We finally arrived home to relax with K'Nex, Old School Sesame Street DVDs, and computer time (depending on who you were). It was such a nice day that I was inspired to blog while our BBQ'ed chicken legs and home fries cook. Maybe I'll even keep up the habit. It is the dawn of a new era, you know. :)