Monday, September 29, 2008

Parroting Parenting Skills

As a parent I often cringe when I hear one of my children say something that they've learned from hearing me speak...since it is typically a less than exemplary selection of linguistic material (something like "geez!" or "yeah, well..."). This week, however, I've had the privilege of hearing both of my daughters say something that had quite the opposite effect. They were both wonderful tidbits proving that my efforts in parenting are not completely wasted.

First was little Audrey. I was busy on the computer (work, not play--of course!) and she was trying to explain to me how she had divided one stick of gum into enough pieces for everyone to have some. Instead of being the wonderful nurturing homeschooling mother that I typically am, I attempted to multi-task. Oops. I faintly heard her say which piece was mine so I reached out, took the piece, put it in my mouth and started chewing. I was in the middle of thinking that I was doing a fabulous job of handling two things at once when I realized the Audrey had completely stopped chattering. Then she sighed. I glanced over at her and she said, "Mommy, I was making a point!"

Second was Melinda. I was watching Pride and Prejudice (the REAL one, thank you very much) and Melinda impatiently asks, "why do they keep playing the same song?". I try to never let an opportunity pass to give Melinda some grief, so with half a smile I replied, "Well, you are more than welcome to leave the room, you know." She gave me a longsuffering, patient look and explained: "Mom. I like the movie, and I like spending time with you, I'm just getting tired of hearing the same song over and over again." Ha! That's something my wonderful brother Matthew would appreciate. What a step for this girl of mine! To see her separate emotion and feeling from facts is a fabulous treat for me.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Civil War Dinner

We have been studying the Civil War with Winterpromise's American Story 2. When I told the kids that there was instructions on how to make hardtack in the instructor's guide, they all got excited.

"We should plan a Civil War Dinner!" they all said at once. Well, okay! Who am I to pass up an opportunity for further education? So we made cornbread and hardtack, and served it with beans and coffee under a tent the boys constructed outside. We talked about a soldier's life and sang The Battle Hymn of the Republic.What a great experience. Andrew decided that we should have a Civil War Dinner once a year in remembrance of the Civil War. Everyone was beyond thrilled to be told to drink coffee. I was gracious enough to allow them to add cream and sugar, which is probably the reason that everyone (except Audrey) finished their whole mug.History with Winterpromise has been one part of our day that everyone has enjoyed. We all agree that the afternoons are the best. Andrew likes just being able to listen and discuss. Timothy won't go so far as to say that he enjoys it, but does admit that it is much less painful than math or grammar. I like that I can have them all together, learning about the same thing for some portion of the day.Next, we need to find a place to go gold panning OTHER than our pool!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Finally! A Smooth, Successful School Day

Today has been (so far) the first day of school where I've felt like I've actually managed to cover all the bases. Of course, the day is only halfway through, but the afternoons are always nice and laid back so I'm not worried.

Today gives me hope. Hope for tomorrow. Years of tomorrows. Tomorrows that won't be in the category of "Our first month of homeschooling". I've been hoping that we are still in adjustment time, that the problems I've been facing daily aren't an accurate view of my life for the indefinite future. Today was the first sign that I'm making progress.

Today, nobody cried about their school work. Andrew came close, but did the best he has so far. Everything was done smoothly, quickly, and kindly. And not only that, but we got everything done.

Today was the first day that I haven't had to push aside my eager-to-learn 4yo because of the needs of everyone else. Audrey is loving school. She pulls worksheets out of her desk to do while I'm working with the other kiddos, and is always begging for more. Today, finally, I got to focus on her. Today we started Audrey's Alphabet Book.

Today my outlook has completely changed. Thank God for joy in the morning.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Dust Bunny Wrangler

Yes, the rumors are true. I've hired a Dust-Bunny Wrangler. A professional one. She also specializes in smothering smudges to smithereens. 3 weeks into our new house I found myself being taken over by more domestic tumbleweeds than I could handle. She is scheduled to obliterate obnoxious obstructions weekly. So far, so good. Yippee!

(sorry for the excessive alliteration, I got carried away.)

Searching for a new Church

I've never really started from square 1 in looking for a new church. When I first moved to So.Cal Chris and his mom had already begun attending a church, and we just continued on. When we moved to Tahoe, we went to the one we'd gone to while vacationing there, which had been recommended by some people we knew.

There are many more options in So.Cal than in Nor.Cal and now that we are back down here we really want to make sure that we like where we are before we continue on. Some friends down here have recommended the churches they go to, and we decided that was a good place to start. We went to the first one last Sunday; it was an experience completely different from any other I've had.

First, I was going in with some skepticism. The church is big. Very big. The pastor is televised and travels internationally. I was drumming up assumptions before we even landed on the church "campus". We joined the lines of cars entering the parking lot and were first greeted by volunteers in orange vests guiding us to an open spot, theme park style. It was actually nice not having to wander the parking lot searching for an open spot, or dealing with other people searching for your spot.

After getting the kids out of the car we followed the other people who were toting children toward the correct building. Upon entering we passed the electronic express check-in and made our way to the queue for the visitor check-in. Four or five volunteers were helping families register their kids at computer terminals. Check-in process went smoothly and we delivered our children to the correct classrooms, then left the building with Timothy in tow (he's too old for the classes, or too cool for school rather).

An adjacent building contained the main auditorium, and we entered, received our communion packet, walked up the stairs, and found a seat. The music was a little more 'praise' and a little less 'worship' and not really our style, but fairly enjoyable nonetheless. The message was very good. We were quite entertained by all the camera work throughout the service.

The result? The boys loved it, Melinda did not. She felt that it was too structured with not enough time for friends or games for her liking. Audrey was fairly ambivalent, as a 4-year old is apt to be. Chris and I enjoyed the message, and people really weren't as I thought they'd be. Everyone was very friendly, yet not in a fake way. It was very big, but not too monstrously big. We actually had somebody stop us who recognized us from when we'd lived in So.Cal previously!

Will we keep going there? It's a possibility. I imagine we'd get used to all the peculiarities eventually. For now, however, we still want to see what our other options are. Will keep you updated!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Working out the Kinks

We've got 2 full weeks of homeschooling under our belts. It's that time where I am starting to see how all of my curriculum and schedule decisions are really working--or not working, as the case may be. (I really wanted to say "as it were", simply because the phrase has been grating on me lately, but I just couldn't do it. It would grate on me too much.)

What is very interesting to me is that Timothy is off and running--he's used to homeschooling at this point--but I am having similar issues with Andrew and Melinda that I did with Timothy this time last year. It goes to show, I think, that it does take some time to adjust to a new school whether the school is at home or elsewhere. If Andrew or Melinda are stressed about school, it usually is accompanied by a comment such as: "I've just never done anything this way before" or "We didn't do it like this at Tahoe Montessori".

This is the reason that I'm trying to hold myself back from piling on the work. I want them to enjoy learning. Or at least make it so it isn't agonizingly painful! But there is so much that I want to do--thus the need to "hold my horses". So what have I found out so far? Some good things, some things that need to change.

- Reading the bible while everyone eats breakfast. This spurs some great conversation, and starts the day out together and in a good mood.

- Doing individual work in the morning. Like I thought, nobody is ready to deal with anybody else in the morning. So after our breakfast and bible reading, we split up and get math and language arts out of the way.

- A long lunch break. This has been a life saver so far for many reasons. One is that it gives everyone a chance to relax and refocus. Another is that it breaks up the day and I'm not left with a huge chunk at the end of the day with Melinda begging to do things and be entertained. We've also been getting our read-aloud done at this time, as well as some exercise in the pool!

- Meeting up again in the afternoon to do history and science. We have some great discussions about history, and everyone is much more relaxed and capable of dealing with each other by this point in the day.

- WinterPromise "American Story 2". This has been a wonderful curriculum so far. I really like the instructor's guide (my only complaint being the separate "Working On My Own" pages that I don't use and wish were on the regular page). I love the variety of books, I love the movie, website, and activity ideas, I love how easy it is to add other things to. It really has felt perfect so far. Little planning, big payoff.

- Bob Jones English. Sigh. I'd thought I'd found a winner. Grammar and Composition in alternating chapters on nice simple, colorful pages. It looked straightforward, contained plenty of instruction and wasn't too overwhelming. Well, the grammar portion has been tolerable, though it is quite questionable how much they'll actually retain. Timothy and Melinda are doing fine with it, Andrew hates it but can live with it. The writing portion is just not going to work out. It is not necessarily a bad writing program, it is just very teacher intensive. So much so that I feel like it would be far easier to pull something together myself! It does have all the step by step instructions that was absent in Sonlight's Language Arts, which is something that I really wanted. It also seems to be pretty sequential, which is nice. But I do think that it would work better in a classroom situation where all the students are given a lecture in class, and a homework assignment. I haven't decided what I'll do, but I'm thinking that we'll take it easy and have them write letters and do other low-key writing for awhile. Eventually I'll probably just have Andrew start on the writing program that Timothy is using.

- WinterPromise "I'm Ready to Learn" preschool program. I bought this a year ago, tried it, didn't love it, and stopped. Audrey is really ready to do more school type activities now, so I thought that I'd give it another go, ditching one of the books that really bugged me. Some of the activities are cute, we really like the science book, but most of it feels like busy-work and I find myself ditching it again. So I'm starting to think that I may just drop it and start up with Little Hands to Heaven, which is what I really want to be doing anyhow!

- RightStart Math. This hasn't really been bad, but has some bad points. I like the warm up activities, and Melinda loves the games and manipulatives. I am not liking the spiral approach, and Melinda hasn't been jiving with their way of explaining different mental math methods (don't you love alliteration?). It is also extremely teacher intensive. Since Melinda does like to do worksheets, (something that RightStart doesn't use much of,) we may use another program such as Math-U-See for our base, and add in the warm-ups, games, and manipulatives.

Overall, the most difficult adjustment to full-time homeschooling for me has been exactly what the most difficult adjustment was to homeschooling only one child: the loss of free time. I love my children, I love spending time with them, I love joining in their education, I love reading to them, I love researching curriculum and planning, but being Melinda's only source of entertaining is draining. If last year is any indication, however, it will balance out eventually. Not driving to and from school for an hour a day really makes a difference, too...I'm finding myself more willing to get involved in mid-week activities.

Well, that's the schooling update. I'll write more on the other portions of life later on this month!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Kitty Found!

I am SO relieved! The stray cat in question was indeed playing a part in the whole fiasco. Around 24 hours after Juno had been let out of the house, Chris heard some noises that led us to discover Juno and the stray cat fighting on our back deck. I am praising and thanking God right now. I was very worried and emotional all day. Juno is unharmed, though hungry. There are fewer rodent-sized snacks in Long Beach than in Tahoe, after all. Thank you to anyone who joined us in prayer!

I'd appreciate your prayers...

If you have the time and inclination, we'd greatly appreciate it if you'd say a prayer for us and our kitty-cat. This morning I found out that our eldest son let our cat, Juno, go outside into the courtyard last night. We'd let him out once before, but under strict supervision. Last night he wasn't supervised or brought inside.

Juno has been very timid since we moved in 2 1/2 weeks ago, so I am surprised to find that he's apparently taken off. We've had some visits from a stray cat--we can't figure out if that cat is involved in this though.

Anyhow, the boys have both been very emotional today (as have I) and would covet your prayers. (The girls are largely uninformed of the situation.) Thank you.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

That State South of Nevada

Today Melinda discovered that she is not as far from "home" as she thought. She has had a hard time moving, and has been feeling very far away from home. Our home in Tahoe is a few short miles from Nevada, so Melinda is familiar with both California and Nevada. When we were discussing history today we were looking at the distance between a northern Virginia and California (she wanted to know if we would have been able to hear the fighting of the Civil War had we been alive at the time).

Suddenly Melinda perked up. "We live in California???" she asked, incredulously. "Where did you think we lived--Nevada?" I questioned. She answered, "No, I thought we lived in that state south of Nevada."

She was encouraged to find that we still live in the same state, as if we are perhaps not as far from home as she'd thought. And it sounds as though it's a good thing we will be studying US history and geography this year!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Jump in, the water's fine!

Well, not much of the house is exactly in photo condition yet, but here's something that we've all been enjoying:It sure has been nice to cool off, and get a bit of exercise, for only the price of a tad more laundry.

I also have my school room in working order. There will be many things to adjust, I am sure, but it got us through our first "real" school day.
I can already tell that I need to reorganize my schedule/assignment system a little, although I think that many things will improve as time goes by simply because we will be in more of a routine. My other foreseeable issue has to do with the fact that Audrey is a very enthusiastic preschooler and is not happy unless she has to do just as much work as the other kids. (A horrible problem to have, I know.)

That's all for now, the pool is calling!