Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A Learning Environment

I'm a big proponant of giving the children a learning environment. I think it encourages the children to see everyday life as a learning opportunity and helps develop a love of learning. I also think that children are designed (by the Great Designer) to learn. Giving them #1 - a fertile environment that #2 - fits their size (therefore doesn't make thing harder for them) only taps into their #3 - predesigned zeal for learning.

  • We have books EVERYWHERE! It's a joy!
  • They have seating that fits their bodies (if they'd ever use them).
  • They each have their own space for their stuff. They have their own pencil boxes with their own supplies, they have their own baskets or boxes to put their books and we have a place for art projects and other projects (I'll have to tell you about my binder system, someday).
  • We have a math center (it's in the picture) and a reading center for the younger kids.

How has our homeschool learning environment developed?

We started with one child at a child's table learning one-on-one with a set curriculum. Eventually, I made Montessori materials for the younger children growing into schooling. We now have children laying on floors, or sitting where ever they please. Most do their school rather independently and come to Mom for questions. I also direct (teach) certain subjects that require my input, like reading to them from a science book to ensure they're understanding the concepts or drilling all their vocabulary up to that point in Latin.
Many of the children are grouped together by ability rather than separated by grade in Science, History, Religion & Foreign Language. For example my 3rd grader joins my 5th grader in Latin, but also joins her 1st grade brother in History.

Some of the things you see stored in our math center is our :
~Math-U-See blocks and the ever present decimal street that I made from a file folder, construction paper homes, number cards and had it all laminated. (By the way, the Math-U-See program ROCKS!)
*I actually have 2 different versions of Decimal Street.
*One is described in the MUS book and fits the blocks exactly.
*The other is made from file folders taped together and has additions of Decimal Street houses with lakes in the shape of a comma separating the additions (top picture). Lake Thousand is the first lake, then after another housing addition of decimal street, Lake Million. I made blue comma cards with the names of the lakes that they use with it to teach extended place value.
~Behind the MUS blocks is our geoboards and to the right of the table is our teddybear counters.
~ Then we have miscellaneous math materials we've made or bought in the top left box.
~We also have translucent geometric solids (but they're not solid and you can put lots of mini-m&m's in them on the bottom left box.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Daily Drugery er Details

WOW! After writing down everything I did today, even though the house is still a mess and nothing seems done, I’m impressed with myself! I did A LOT! (This is pretty boring reading so feel free to skip this entry)

7:30 Wake up (I stay up till 11pm or midnight and have a hard time dragging myself out of bed in the morning).
7:32 Wake up kids (for the 2nd time that morning, Dave just did it about 15 minutes ago when he left for work).Get dressed
7:35 Make bed, check kids’ progress, remind of morning chores
7:40 Make breakfast with kids who are ready
7:50 Kids start eating
8:00 Bible story while kids finish breakfast
8:20 Boys do workbooks, Oral Latin drill with girls while clearing dishes
8:30 Dd#2 goes in timeout for playing around and talking back instead of doing Latin with us.
8:35 Dd#1 Math, Mama assembles items from lessons for tomorrow’s Book Club Co-op
8:45 Mama organizes library books that need to be returned
8:50 Answer 2 kids’ questions about their schoolwork.
8:55 Crosscheck library books with overdue list online (I have several that are overdue…)
9:10 Break up argument with boys. Need to lay my hands on 7 books for the library – they’re lost in the house.
Help Ds#3 with school. Reprimand Dd#1 for playing with dog instead of doing school and give her a small scrubbing job as a consequence.
Get Dd#2 out of timeout. Call her 4 times as she won’t come. As she’s headed downstairs she says in a superior tone that she was busy sewing. Send her back in timeout for 10 minutes for her tone of voice. She yells and stomps upstairs. Tell her to go in timeout in Mama’s room so she won’t be tempted to play. She says OK, but doesn’t go. Give her an additional 2 minutes for lack of compliance. She complains – give her an additional 2 minutes.
9:20 Check on Ds#3, put in a load of laundry
9:25 Discuss timeout with Dd#2, send her back upstairs so she can compose her indignation.
9:30 Grade Dd#1 math paper.
9:35 Check e-mail
9:50 Talk with Dd#2 who storm out in frustration that I won’t let her argue with me and justify that she’s right. I explained, but she didn’t want to listen. I accepted her less than penitent apology and gave her a chore to do before she starts school (something physical helps abate her frustration more than something mental). She growls and stomps off. I sent her back in timeout for 10 minutes. She screams at me. Now it’s 15 minutes in timeout. She yells that I’m unfair. Now it’s 20. She went upstairs.
9:55 Help Ds#3, give Ds#4 a consequence for catching him writing on his desk and the school table with markers. Ds#4 isn’t allowed to touch a marker until his birthday in the spring when he’s 5. (I’m not kidding.) Give Dd#1 her math paper and discuss it. Give her additional math practice and remind her put away school books she left out in the other room.
10:00 Make coffee, play math game with Ds#4, help Ds#3 with school and remind him to pick up his puzzle from yesterday.
10:15 Just as the timer went off, I heard Dd#2 playing piano in timeout. Put her in time out on the steps where I can watch her for refusing to be obedient in timeout (the rule is you do NOTHING in timeout).
Get cup of coffee (my first food of the day), assign boys a math game to play with each other.
Check on Dd#1, get math sheets for boys
10:30 Break up a disagreement with boys, put in a load of laundry.
Dd#2 is sweet and sorrowful – morning chores for her.
Assign Ds#4 a math sheet, read with Ds#3
10:55 Get Ds#3 started on math sheet, check Ds#4. Find TV controller for Dd#1’s math review.
11:00 Check boys’ math. Assign boys’ writing.
Re-explain helping verbs for the 5th time this year to Dd#2, assign a language memory song to the tune of “This Old Man” - Dd#2 “I’m NOT singing a BARNEY song!”
11:30 Boys’ lunch. Mama gets a 45 minute phone call to explain decisions for next year’s co-op.
12:00 Girls’ lunch, boys’ playtime
12:20 Mama eats for the 1st time today.

RECAP – Kids are done with :

History Text reading & research
Bible Story & Bible reading on own
Poetry memorization

Empty Dishwasher
Memorize Helping Verbs
Bible Story

Handwriting & Language worksheet
Math game & worksheet
Bible Story
Reading out loud

Math game & worksheet
Bible Story

12:30 Load of laundry, read Book for co-op tomorrow (nothing like procrastination to motivate a mom) Have Dd#1 fold laundry while she listens.
12:50 Boys continue to play. With girls – Latin drills, poetry reading, memorize Stations of the Cross.
1:45 Have kids finish clearing table from lunch. Get Dd#2 started on Language worksheet (more helping verbs) and Dd#1 started on defining words from her history novel literature guide.
Make tea.
2:10 Pour a cup of tea. Read to younger 3 kids from history text (SOTW).
2:30 Piano teacher comes. Dd#2 works with piano teacher, Dd#1 continues to define, Mama does a narration with Ds#3. Ds#4 pretends to do a narration with Mama.
Grade Dd#2’s language paper and all 3 younger kids’ math papers.
Encourage Ds#3 to gather up trash and take it out. Ds#4 helps with the trash.
3:00 Dd#1 piano lesson, Dd#2 math test, Mama keeps track of how many people e-mail to sign up for the upcoming field trip I just set up.
3:15 Read to Ds#3 from Treasure Box books, and then a children’s book on the functions of the brain.
3:40 Ds#3 gets his first piano lesson.
3:45 Discuss with piano teacher Dd#2’s lack of progress and pay for lessons.
4:00 Print Ds#3’s history narration and maintain kids’ history folders in preparation for the Ancient Greece lapbooks they will make.
4:15 Print up Dd#2’s piano checklist as dictated from piano teacher to get her to slow down instead of rushing through her practices.
Reprimand Ds#3 for coloring a wooden box meant for school supplies.
Put on a Leap Phonics DVD for boys – Storybook Factory
4:45 Do a load of laundry, set Ds#3’s wet shoes on the dryer to dry.
5:00 Give books to Kerri who stopped by to look at last year’s science books.
5:20 Get girls out the door for a dinner date with their grandma.
5:30 Write up Dd#1’s spelling words on flash cards for review.
5:35 Kiss Dave when he comes home and chat with him about the day.
- spend 45 minutes typing up my list of what I did today!!
6:45 Eat left-overs for dinner that Dave heated up.
That was 4 loads of laundry - about half still need folded. I still haven't found the overdue 7 library books. Oh, I can hardly wait for Dave to put the kids to bed and I get some quiet and time to do what I want (read overdue library books before I have to return them).

Friday, February 23, 2007

Mindless Meetings

I really hate meetings for meetings' sake. I'm not good on a committee and don't work well with others. Give me a task - a tiny bit of direction - and I'll make up the rest and run with it. Usually I can accomplish some modicum of success.

The weekly co-op we've been doing this year was more work than I wanted to put into it. So, when people started asking me about doing it again next year, and I knew they were right and it was time to get moving on it...I was plain discouraged. I prayed about getting out of it. I asked Dave and told him all the pro's and con's from my perspective. He advised me to stick with the co-op for next year and just try to diversify the work load. I was even more discouraged. I just wanted to be done with it! The Co-op allowed us to get in most of our extra curricular activities during the day so it didn't take away from family time in the evenings and it allowed us to stay home 4 days a week and get all our school done without the incredible stress of running in and out the door and trying to pick up where we left off when we were tired and cranky from running around. The house stays in better order when we aren't running out the door. It was really working for every member of our family but me and I wasn't doing it for my sake to start with so...
FINE, GOD! If you intend on being mean and MAKING me do this, FINE!
(while I stomp off to my room to pout.) -this is what a terrible Christian I am and an example of what a sucky job I do with submission.

So, I scheduled a planning meeting with the people who seemed interested in helping. Last night we finally got together for the planning meeting (February weather in Indiana can be unpredictable and it took some doing to get another date).

God is SO good! We accomplished an incredible amount at the planning meeting and some of the women had suggestions of how to diversify that really makes it completely do-able and enjoyable for me to participate next year. As a matter of fact, I won't be doing anymore than any other participant!! I AM SOOO PSYCHED about next year!! God took my teeny, tiny bit of submission and gave me everything I needed (in His time).

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust

It's so comforting in an odd reflective way. I can only expect so much of myself, because compared to His glory, I'm only ashes. Yet, it's these ashes that He has done so much for and is willing to continue to shower his love upon.

Wearing them around town is stating my brokenness - in a healthy, whole way.

Today, we've been preparing our minds for Lent. We've been preparing our bodies (with abstinance and fast) for Lent. We've been preparing our home (with purple) for Lent. We've been preparing our spirits (with reflections on our own sinfulness and what we need to do to be in unity with Christ) again.

Yes, we've been doing a lot of preparing our spirits. The children each asked if they could make a prayer book for their lenten prayer time. Yes, my loves, you can approach the King of kings with quiet and reverence.

And preparing our home. We'll redo the children's alter and allow them to make it their own. We have a set of melaware purple plates & bowls we use for every meal time during Lent (it was really cheap end of summer @ Meijer). I often hang a poster that has a large crown of thorns drawn on it and each child can make a flower out of their color of napkin for each act of love (you know those cheap ones with 4 colors in a pkg of 500 for $2.50) and tape it on the crown of thorns giving Jesus a crown of flowers by the end of Lent. We cover many of our statues with purple cloth (my husband hates that part - thinks it looks dumb). It's a painful exercise because seeing the emptiness where our beloved Mother should be is jarring for the children and me. It really reminds us on a moment-to-moment basis that this is a special time to strive for reconciliation.

Schoolwork will continue...with the hardship of trying to peacefilled and loving in our interactions with eachother - hard in the middle of daily stress, but oh, so important. It bears beautiful fruit in our lives.

Knowing that when Daddy comes home, we'll go to Mass to receive the outward sign of ashes to show the world what we've been preparing our spirits for. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust...it really is a comforting time of knowing where we're headed (tword Christ in Easter, but through his pain and suffering) and knowing He'll be there to help us every step and fall we make.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Science Fair Quotes 2007

Mama "What do you want to do for your science fair project?"
Dd#2 "I want to set something on FIRE!"
Daddy "No way in ..."
Mama "What about making a volcano instead?"
Dd#2 "An explosion? YEAH! I want to make a HUGE explosion!"
...later while doing the experiment...
Dd#2 "Why CAN'T I put cupfuls of baking soda with cupfuls of vinegar!!! Using Tablespoons is BORING!"

While waiting for judging...
Dd#2 "This doesn't seem much like a fair!"


Dd#2 "Do I have to do this next year?"
Mama "Only if you win."
Dd#2 "I hope I don't win!"
Judge "And the 2nd place winner for 3rd grade is..."

Dd#2 I can't quite spell the moan that came out of her. She was very unhappy. Her Mama was pretty proud, though!

I was really proud of all the kids. Dd#1 did an excellent job with almost no parental involvement. Ds#3 wrote out everything himself.

Ds#3 woke me up with his trophy in his hand.
Mama "Honey, why are you carrying that around?"
Ds#3 "This is my first trophy I've ever had in my whole life!"
Mama "Are you going to carry it around for the whole day?"
Ds#3 "YES!"


Ds#4 "I'm sad that I didn't get a trophy. I wanted to do a science fair."

So, this morning before school, all the kids set up their science projects and display boards and let Ds#4 do projects and give presentations telling what he did.

Aren't they sweet children?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Our Week

This week in history Dd#2 made a Minoan woman sailing on a Minoan ship out of clay, and Ds#3 made a Labyrinth like Theseus and the Minotaur were in together (the monster is in the house at the center. But don't be scared, he's not real.) We put together TONS of Valentine's and mailed out a fair amount (but the Valentine's party got snowed out and we'll have to reschedule it.) The girls went iceskating for the first time and my uncle said they did very well. We played with Daddy while he was home 2 days this week while we watched all the snow come down. That was pretty much our week. I had a serious blast at my own Pampered Chef party ... I really am all about myself. The kids were incredible help with the party and were wonderful hostesses. They all thought it was soooo cooool having a COOKING SHOW in their OWN HOUSE!! (They have a thing for info-mercials. Ds#3 is saving up to buy something called a Magic Bullet.) Then we couldn't help but play in the snow with friends. This weekend, we'll all be doing science projects. That's pretty much our week in review.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Romance is...

Romance is...

... my dear husband letting me throw a Pampered Chef party when he DOESN'T like parties (and he'd prefer I not spend more money).

... my dd#2 making me a huge bag of valentine's cards (when she was supposed to be in her room in time out) and so excited that she's tried to give them to me everyday for a week "...but not until Valentine's day, sweetie."

... my dear husband not complaining when he walks in the house and I'm on the computer, again, and the house is still a mess (and not nearly clean enough to have a Pampered Chef party) and he doesn't say a word!

... ds#3 running downstairs after getting ready for bed in his daddy's white t-shirt and throwing himeself on my lap "Mama, I just wanted to cuddle you."

... my dear husband putting 4 kids to bed (multiple times a night when needed) because I've had my fill of kids during the day.

... my ds#4 writing his name 40 times to make his valentine's and not complaining once when some of the bigger kids were whinning.

... my dear husband letting me watch the show I want to watch knowing that he'll miss his show.
... my dd#1 walking up to me silently to hug me 4 or 5 times a day. Why? "Because I like to hug you."

... my dear husband helping with all of the science expiraments so the kids can be in the science fair when he didn't even think they needed to be in the fair (this hasn't happened, yet, but it's slated for this weekend...isn't he GREAT?)

School Song

Dave wrote us a school song the first month we started homeschooling. It states some of our reasons for homeschooling and some of our goals that we're shooting for. The first few years, we'd start school with our song (which we found sign language motions for) as our opening prayer and the Pledge of Allegience. The girls learned the song really well that way. However, school is a little less structured now-a-days and Dave gets frustrated that the boys don't know it very well.

The tune he used is "The Servant Song" by Richard Gillard. If you want to hear the tune, simply type in "Servant Song" in a search engine.

Highland Dove is the name of our school representing our Scottish heritage and the Holy Spirit's indwelling in our lives.

If the song fits your school, feel free to modify it as needed (e.g., change "Highland Dove" to "Our Homeschool" or the name of your school). Permission granted for personal use only. All rights reserved.

Mother, Father, Sister, Brother
Highland Dove will help us see
Love of learning, hearts are yearning
To be part of God’s family.

Mighty, God, we pray now to you
In our weakness, you are strong
Teach us truth and perseverance
Till all doubt and fear are gone.

Serving Jesus is our purpose.
Lord, our friend, we welcome you.
Teach us service, trust, and virtue
To care for others as you do.

Holy Spirit, breathe upon us.
Teach us gentleness and peace,
Patience, kindness, love for others,
Till all bitterness does cease.

Abba Father, Jesus, Brother
Gentle Spirit, show your love
We dedicate our learning to you
And offer up our Highland Dove. Amen.

Copyright © 2002. All Rights Reserved.Permission granted for personal use only.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Why do you homeschool?

Dave and I decided to homeschool in order to :
  • To foster a hunger for a living relationship with Christ and the tools of perseverance, obedience and discipline to realize that relationship.
  • To encourage a tremendous life-long passion for learning.
  • To promote a unified family entity that each individual can rely on.
  • To train our children to think "out of the box" and reach the potential God gives them, not ones others may impose upon them.
  • To protect our children's innocence and guard their hearts until they are old enough to guard them.
  • Discourage materialism they would be inundated with in the larger culter and encourage an others-focused life rather than a me-centered attitude.
  • I felt called by God.
  • Dave desired to give me my heart's longing, even if it was a struggle for him at first. He's a big proponant of home schooling now, can you tell?

The best list of why to homeschool that I've found came from an article written by Maureen Wittmann in A Catholic Homeschool Treasury. Other reasons to homeschool :

  • To center our lives on the family rather than on school.
  • To nurture, train, and educate our children.
  • To pass on our faith and culture.
  • To foster emotional security.
  • To hold our children close while they are young and then let them fly.
  • To provide role models ourselves.
  • To protect our children from pressure to try drugs or engage insexual activity before marriage.
  • To ensure that the children learn to read phonetically.
  • To encourage creativity.
  • To provide a classical education.
  • To reeducate myself.

Also Because...

  • We can accomplish more in less time.
  • We can vacation and travel during the off-season.
  • Socialization, socialization, socialization.
  • We can take field trips on the spur of the moment and many of them.
  • The Church teaches us that, as parents, we are our children's primary teacher.
  • Every child is unique and learns in different ways.
  • We know exactly what our children are taught.
  • One-on-one tutoring far outwieghs large-class settings.
  • In this computer age, resources for home educators are bountiful.
  • School is in session year round, even on sick days and snow days.
  • I love being with my children.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Ancient Crete and the Minoans

To close up our week, we learned ancient Minoans had fresco paintings on their walls. Using Teaching History Through Art, we made fresco paintings of our own. Dd#1 made a Minoan woman, Dd#2 made flowers, Ds#3 made a Minoan ship, and Ds#4 made a huge blue mess!
It was incredibly cool and after I put down the camera, I couldn't help but make some myself (I made Valentine hearts on cardstock). I could hardly pull Dd#2 away from the table. We paint all the time (note Dave's shirts we stole for paint shirts), but the colors, textures, and depth of fresco was seriously kewl!


Man, I need to get better at this...

Quotes from St. John Bosco :

There must be no hostility in our minds, no contempt in our eyes, no insult on our lips. We must use mercy for the present and have hope for the future, as is fitting for true fathers who are eager for real correction and improvement.

My sons, in my long experience very often I had to be convinced of this great truth. It is easier to become angry than to restrain oneself, and to threaten a boy than to persuade him. Yes, indeed, it is more fitting to be
persistent in punishing our own impatience and pride than to correct the boys. We must be firm but kind, and be patient with them.

This was the method that Jesus used with the apostles. He put up with their ignorance and roughness and even their infidelity. He treated sinners with kindness and affection that caused some to be shocked, others to be scandalized and still others to hope for God's mercy. And so he bade us to be gentle and humble of heart.

Do you want Our Lord to give you many graces? Visit Him often. Do you want Him to give you few graces? Visit him seldom. Visits to the Blessed Sacrament are powerful and indispensable means of overcoming the attacks of the devil. Make frequent visits to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and the devil will be powerless against you.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


http://www.homeschoolchristian.com/Reviews/LatinComparison.html This is a phenominal comparison chart of Latin Programs. I wish I could find something like this for Language Arts & Science!!!!

We use Prima Latina & Latina Christiana I & II from Memoria Press.com because....
  • I prefer the pronunciation (it's the same as some of the songs at church).
  • I appreciate how easy it is for a completely Latin-ignorant mom to teach.
  • My kids learn well orally, so all the drill is just up their alley.
  • I've learned lots along with them.
  • I like the songs, phrases, and reviews of Roman history that are incorporated into some of the materials.

I highly recommend it to anyone!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Teaching Reading

I do not enjoy teaching my children to read. It is a tedious process fraught with frustration on the child's part no matter how sweetly I present it. It is hard work for all of us. My relationship with Christ and the Catholic spiritual practices I participate in allow me to be open to the graces to be more patient, more encouraging, and more loving in the heart of a sometimes difficult task.

Both my husband and I have a love of books and have many books available for the children, even as babies. All of our children were fascinated with books as toddlers because of the children's books they were given free access to. It's not the amount that counts, but the free access and seeing books as a priority by the people around you.

Each of my children have learned to read on my lap with a lot of encouragement and positive reinforcement. Some of the children's learning style dictated continuation of the reading lessons with hands-on games and activities.

The youngest two, who are still in the process of learning to read, began the process on their own, accidentally. It was the end of the school year, and I felt pressured to finish our books before we ended for the summer. Hoping for some uninterrupted time with the older children, I plopped the younger two in front of the TV with a learning video every day for two weeks. At the conclusion of school and the start of summer break, I turned my attention to my 5 year old asking for his help cutting out letters to teach him the names and sounds of them. He patiently informed me that he already knew them. I knew I hadn't taught him and last month he didn't know them. He insisted he was right. To prove to him that he needed to let me teach him, I held up letter after letter out of order. He knew 18 sounds out of 26 and some of the names. I tested the 3 year old and had a similar experience. After watching Leap Frog's Letter Factory, they had begun the process without me at ages 5 and 3. Now, at 6 and 4 they are both about half-way through the year to 2 year process of learning to read well, with the 4 year demanding to get his "reading time, too!"

Our children are exposed to read alouds and books at an early age. They are free to begin the process when ever they ask to learn to read. Two of our children have done that in preschool. If they haven't learned before, formal reading lessons begin in 1st grade with the materials we have in our school (homemade Montessori materials, Little Stories for Little Folks, Sing Spell Read & Write readers and games - I would NOT advise anyone to buy this new, and Abeka early readers) on Mom's lap on the couch. We continue practicing one skill, for example sounding out letters to make words, until they have pretty much accomplished it switching to other readers at the same level as needed for practice. Once they have, relatively, mastered a skill, we move on to the next level, for example vowel variations, moving among the various readers until they have enough practice to become competent in that skill. Depending on the child, it can take 1-2 years to completely work through the process and they are reading securely on a second grade level. I do not introduce spelling or language arts until they are reading securely on a second grade level.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Will they turn me in?

This... is our old couch. I tried to give it away. All the organizations I called to donate it told me that it didn't meet their standard. I was left to leave it outside for the garbage truck. Outside. In the snow. Dd#1 said, "It looks so lonely." It was the first piece of new furniture I'd ever bought. It was cheap. It's over a decade old. I'm thrilled to get rid of it. But, as I told Amy, leaving a piece of upholstered furniture out -- in the snow -- overnight, it just seems wrong - like writing in a book.
I stood across the street to take the pictures. Ds#4 is peeking out the door, even though I told him to keep the door shut!
This will clear the way to organize our library (living room) into centers so it's more condusive for educational activities. We'll see if this works...but this was first step -- out with the old...
Dave thought it was odd that I was taking pictures of our trash. He also thinks we may get a letter of complaint from our addition.

It happens without noticing

It happens every year. In January or February, I want to start planning for next year's school and my garden and my summer. But I feel so burdened by the stuff around me holding me down. I feel inefficient and ineffective. I start reorganizing, cleaning and reprioritizing. It's a labor of love and it feels so freeing. For several years I looked at this occurance as a pattern of failure. I'm not good at keeping up on my house and let it get out of control. I'm more materialistic than I realize and allow us to collect too much stuff. I'm not focussed enough on hommaking and making our home a reflection of Christ. Then I started seeing more to the pattern.

This pattern of seeing all the things in my home that need thrown away and working on my un-organized school happens to me year after year in January & February. I don't do resolutions for the New Year, so why the push in January? I've decided that it has so much more to do with Lent than with January being a new year.

By the time Lent comes, I've usually gotten things to a place where I can ignore my surroundings (because it's not in my way) and focus on the interior things holding me back. The sacrifices of Lent aren't so hard, because the exterior of my life has more order. The exterior chaos in my life has quieted, so I can listen to the interior chaos and allow Him to give me rest & peace. After just going through the pattern of seeing the dis-ordered places in my life and making them ordered, it isn't as difficult to look at the sin in my life, the dis-ordered parts of me, and allowing God to put them in His order through the help of the Holy Spirit and coming to Him in Reconciliation. I don't see my sin as a monster I can't control, but an opportunity to come home to Him. Not a seperation I can never breach, but His hand held out to me to draw me close and give me His peace, His order.

I'm AMAZED that God uses this same pattern in other people's lives, too! A sister on the Oro Et Laboro board noticed this January pattern, too. The fact that we can see these patterns says to me that God is faithful in our lives and is really allowing us to live out, even in our interiror lives, the ebb and flow of His liturgical year. I had wanted to live by His order, but didn't know how. I made an effort, but didn't know how to internalize it. So many people looked so much more faithful than I felt. All I could do was try and live out the liturgical year externally - and try to give my children the chance to internalize God's order. All I can do is all I can do and that is to continue to try, even in the face of my failings. In the face of my not being a good enough house keeper, he has cleared the way to make my path straight - straight to Him and who He made me to be. The ebb and flow of the liturgical year is a beautiful thing to live out. He is the "order" in electron patterns. He is the "order" in the change of seasons and He is the "order" in our lives. (Like, we say it -- but it's so cool to see it!)

Monday, February 05, 2007

Homeschooling, the old fashioned way

We've been catching up in school. I wasn't behind, but we weren't where I wanted to be. So, I've been trying to get us caught up. The kids, as usual, have been fine with the work load - I'm the one struggling. Last night I started feeling better from my cold, but didn't get around for writing lesson plans for the week. So...today we played with the Spanish & Health collections of books I got from the wonderful, God-bless-it, library (I just love those people and keep them in my prayers.) I had the girls work through the scientific method of their upcoming science fair projects. (Since I put off the registration and it was due TODAY. Remember what happened with the poetry contest deadline?) They didn't do the experiment, but wrote up their titles, their objective, what they were measuring, a list of needed materials, a brief procedure list of what they're experiment entails, and what they think will happen. They each wrote them out on separate wipe-off boards. Then they had to collect as much of the materials as they could so we could make a shopping list. To accomplish this we had a "business meeting" with Daddy. Dave had us put him on speaker phone, so we could all confer about how best to accomplish this using true science - not just Jenn's twisted idea of what I wish science was like. Between the 2 girls, that took a portion of the day (while I did dishes, etc). So we spent hours on just a few subjects. It sure put the fun back in school, today! Well...I had fun.

Winter Weather

This morning, the kids wanted to call the weather man. On speakerphone he said -2 with a windchill of -27. It's been pretty windy. Dh made all the girls wear pants to Mass, yesterday (Sunday). They were EXTREEMELY upset and felt underdressed, even though most in our parish wear pants. On Sunday, they're just used to wearing their "best." He wouldn't let any of the kids go outside to play, either. I would have said through my laughter, "If you really WANT to...but you'll be back inside SOOON." He's such an insurance man at heart- always looking out for what might happen. He's also a GREAT Dad looking out for everyone's best interest - like not freezing their noses off!

This morning, our heater couldn't keep up with the cold. It's set at 67, but it was 65 when we woke up. 63 by the time I finished a long and often interuppted rosary. The kids had hissy fits when I told them to wear sweatshirts and socks, today! I called Dave for advise and he suggested we bake today. Well, we LOVE to bake!! He also wanted me to close all the curtains. I LIKE the curtains open! I've had a cold, but thankfully all the kids are well right now so we just bundled up and cleaned (to fast music) and baked. We do have one space heater. Within about 3 hours the house was back up to 67. I can't imagine people where there houses have less resources! Jesus, we give you these small sacrifices and ask you to be with and ease the burden of those who must make large sacrifices today.

How can I homeschool when.... my kids don't listen to me?

Q: What if my children don't "listen" to me in terms of school?? Goodness, today was such a whine-filled day that I thought, "How in the world am I going to guide their education when DD throws a fit if I ask her to put away her shoes??" I get these panicky moments of fear in which I imagine my children grousing about the house with me alternately yelling and pleading with them to finish their work...Or does this in fact happen and it's OK because the good days outweigh the bad??

A: My favorite resource is "You're a Better Parent Than You Think" by Dr. Ray Guarendi. His books are so down-to-earth and funny that I always feel empowered after reading him. I also like “Disciple That Lasts a Lifetime” which is just common sense and easy to implement.

I've also found that my kids, eventually, actually behave better during school time than non-school time.

  • They know our routine and what to expect next. Along with this goes the understanding that giving directions and communicating expectations to children is an art in itself and something that needs worked on regularly – for sure I need to work on it all the time.

  • They know they'll be busy and engaged. I do not promise big-time fun. I try to make the learning enJOYable, but learning can be hard work. They will enjoy it if they choose to. Some kids just like something to whine about and nothing will ever be perfect.

  • They know they'll be getting alot of attention from me. Unless of course, they’re in time-out in their room, which also happens a lot at our school.

  • They know that a good school day is often rewarded with "family time" (games, read-alouds,etc.) A bad day is rewarded by…NOT family time.

  • I also insist on more discipline during school time (I'm a slacker-mom during non school time). The kids know that "we're doing school" is a very concrete change from regular life and consequences for negative behavior are swift & sure.
You have to take your child into account in everything you do. Some children coming home to school may need a firmer hand and more consistent discipline than they got in school. I know I couldn’t consistently discipline 28 kids for 6 hours a day – nor would I want to!! At home, you can tailor the consequences to your child. What is most affective for one child (taking away sweets) would be a joke to another child (who couldn’t live without piano). You know your child. You can get to know them better as you school together. One of my children needed a gentle and sensitive spirit upon coming home to school so she felt re-empowered to accomplish what she thought she was bad at. One child may need taught that doing poorly in so-and-so class doesn’t define you – nor does what what’s-her-face said on the playground.

Along with the pep-talk of "you can do this", is the revelation that I am a ROTTEN disciplinarian when I'm pregnant, overcommitted or stressed. I'm just too distracted, tired and emotional to even make a good stab at it. After my babies are born, or I get out of some of my commitments, or I ease the stress in my life in some way, the kids fall in line because I become myself again. If God has called you to homeschool, it's His JOB to give you the grace to accomplish it. Take heart. You can do this.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Never quit, never quit, nev....

Yup. I've got it. I'm sick. (Here's me whining like my kids) "I reeeeeealllly wanted to do 30 day shopping and cooking this weekend...." Last night I made a quick trip to the dollar store and was planning on hitting Wal-mart after that. I was too tired and couldn't make it. I guess this will be a sit-on-the-couch-and-watch-This Old House-weekend.

Yesterday, Dd#1 made lunch & the side for dinner. Dd#2 is still grounded from the kitchen for using the microwave without asking. Dd#2 is the first kid in the kitchen. She loves to "cook" creatively. The mess, the wasted ingredients - it all gets to me. However, Dd#2 is fairly good at it, as she is most everything - just overly eager, as she is everything. Dd#2 is a 'follow the recipe exactly' kind of girl. She's like her mama (who doesn't always follow the recipe but is lost without one).

Then, Dd#1, taught the boys to do the dishes. What a wonderful girl for a sick Mama. However...
They broke my baking stone. All the while I'm thinking how much I didn't want to have to buy a new stone. I wanted to buy things that I want, not what I need. But, now I need a new stone. Yeah, yeah, yeah...I'm having a PamperedChef party...whatever. Dd#1 cried. "Don't cry, honey. It's just a thing, and you're so much more important than a thing." All this could pass away...her help and effort and self-image are so much more important than anything else.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Homemaking Meme

Before we begin, you should know that I basically suck at this stuff.
Aprons – Y/N?
No, mostly I wear sweats & sweatshirt and walk around dirty just from eating.
Baking – Favorite thing to bake:
Chocolate Chip Cookies!! Honestly, cookies of any kind. Then, there's homemade cheesecake. Martha Stewart has a killer one that's way worth the extra ingredients. I LOVE BAKING!
Clothesline – Y/N?
No, it seems like we have so much laundry, things would NEVER get done if I had to hang it out. Dd#1 has been doing a GREAT job this year with laundry as her weekly job. In the winter, we have at least 15 loads, and I'm able to keep the house cleaner since she's taken over laundry. Also, I like how soft the dryer gets things.
Donuts – Have you ever made them?
Hello! It's BAKING! I don't love them, but they're edible. Duncan Donuts ROCKS, though. Unfortunately, we have to drive almost 30 minutes across town to get to the only one, here.
One homemaking thing you do every day:
Pick up books - It's about the only thing I can't stand to see on the floor. They're BOOKS!
Freezer – Do you have a separate deep freeze?
OH, YEAH! This was my Christmas present from Dave a few years ago. I'd been begging for one, but he kept saying it's not like we have a big family, we've just got 4 kids. My s-i-l finally got on his case, THANK YOU, SANDI! I asked for a big red bow on it - that didn't happen. I thought it was a pretty romantic gift anyway - well, not actually romantic, but a WAY good gift.
Garbage Disposal – Y/N?
Yes, but I'm not allowed to put anything down it per the plumber who had to come out 2-3 times a year for the first 2 years we lived here.
Handbook – What is your favorite homemaking resource?
Jesus. I know, it sounds so cliche. But when I get desperate enough about something, then I finally remember to ask for His help. Then I start asking around to all my friends. Through their help and His ability to bring just the right person to advise me (it's kind of like a superpower He has), it gets figured out. I suppose after that it would have to be 30 Day Gourmet. That has helped my home more than any one thing I can think of by freeing up my time.
Ironing – Love it or hate it?
Dd#1 or Dave does all of it. It's not that I don't notice the wrinkles - I just don't care. I figure that it's clean, what more do you want?
Junk drawer – Y/N? Where is it?
Believe it or not my drawers are pretty well organized. I can't keep any of my surfaces clean (like my desk, the buffet...) but it feels like lying to clean off a surface by shoving stuff in a drawer. So the hidden parts of my life are fairly well organized - it's the parts that everyone sees that are a mess. So...what does that really say about me????
Kitchen: Design & Decorating?
I love copper in a kitchen. I also like slate blue & butter yellow together, but I have yet to accomplish that in kitchen decor. Now if I had DISHES those colors, I'll bet I could get my kitchen those colors (I have a thing for dishes). My other favorite colors are muted sage green & off white. Presently my kitchen is taupe with white edging. I like it. The dark cabinets will have to go...someday. P.S. My husband installed ceramic tile -- I don't like it.
Love: What is your favorite part of homemaking?
Throwing parties. A lot of homemaking goes into getting ready for one -- but I love parties!
Mop - Y/N?
It's a kid job, 1 time per week, unless we're going to have a party.
Nylons - Wash by hand or in the washing machine?
I don't own any. (When I did it was washing machine - because if something can't take the washer or dishwasher, it doesn't belong in my house). I bought knee-high black boots at Wal-mart a few years ago and that's what I wear under my skirts to church in winter. In summer, I wear sandles without hose.
Oven - Do you use the window, or open the door to check?
Open the door. The kids love the window, though and stand by the oven for 20 minutes waiting for the cookies to be done.
Pizza - What do you put on yours?
As many veggies as they can pile on. Or taco pizza - with lot's of sour cream.
Quiet - What do you do during the day when you get a quiet moment?
Recipe card box - Y/N?
Yes, 3-ring binder for 30-day, lots of cookbooks, and the web. None of the organization works well for me, though. I think I'll have to print my own cookbook with lots of extra pages for new recipes.
Style of house -
Greek Revival - "Tara, I've come home!" It sure doesn't look like that on the inside, though!
Tablecloths and napkins - Y/N?
Paper napkins & we only use tablecloths for parties - did I mention I love parties?
Under the kitchen sink - Organized or toxic wasteland?
Fairly well organized. It falls under the junk drawer post above.
Vacuum - How many times per week?
Do I have to answer this? Mostly we vacum before we have a party. The floor has to be picked up completely (not just books off the floor) and that doesn't happen every day. I guess that's something I could work on.
Wash - How many loads of laundry do you do a week?
Winter - 15-20 / Summer ~10. Summer clothes are smaller and more fits in the washer. The kids probably change their clothes more in summer, though.
X's - Do you keep a daily list of things to do and cross them off?
Yes, but I loose my list all the time.
Yard - Who does what?
Dave does most of the lawn work. I help with the beds and the garden, he does all the big jobs.
Zzz's - What is your last homemaking task for the day before going to bed?
Putting my evening lap project (crochet, books for lesson plans, knitting...) away so the kids to rip it all apart the next morning.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Sick winter days er week

I think I have a fever. I was really hot and all of a sudden it got really cold. I guess my passion that I'd have to be confined to bed before I'd quit is working on the computer. It doesn't sound nearly as creative as piano or intellectual as reading (my 2 Dds' passions). Dave took this picture a few days ago. I guess my back is what he sees more of than he'd wish - NOT a pretty picture and that long hair HAS GOT TO GO! (Don't feel too sorry for him, he's just waiting for me to get off the computer so he can get on...I know the truth.)

Wow! Typing is way easier than talking!!

This morning's Mass was for my dad. I dragged the sick kids (and dragged the well kids that didn't want to go) and Dave went willingly and helped me do the dragging and we went to 8:15am Mass. It was lovely. As a reward, I made eggs, hash browns & waffles for breakfast when we got home.

This morning on the phone a friend told me my voice sounded scratchy. I AM NOT GETTING SICK. I have too much to do. Then I started to wear out and I quit thinking about running to the dollar store for clear shoe box bins for my craft center. Then I got hot. I cancelled my obligations for tomorrow morning and rescheduled my obligations for Friday night. Then I quit feeling like talking. I'm ready to settle in for a winter's sewing project. I found Tapestry Crochet. It looks pretty easy. I enlarged this design from one of my favorite free clip-art places, Two-Hearts Design, and transferred the design onto a flat grid suggested in the above book. (They have it on the free yahoo groups files if you join). That's my plan. I still had kids to get through the afternoon - some of whom were getting quite rowdy with their new-found health.

Dave helped me get them all to Mass this morning. *Thank you, God!* For school, I had the girls do Math (just an M-U-S worksheet) and Science (read a book & do a book report from one of the many we got from the library Wednesday). Then they read a bible story to the boys who colored lovely pictures of it from this reproducible book that I just LOVE because it has pages for some of the more obscure stories - well, obscure to me. (It's worth the $$ to not waste minutes that turn into hours looking for bible coloring pages). I allow the kids to color a picture of the story in lieu of a narration when they're too sick or I am (or when I'm too busy....it's a great fill-in). I had the girls lead the boys in Simon-Says Calisthenics. Once everyone seemed reasonably worn out, I turned on the Sound of Music. It's not exactly educational TV, but somehow I feel so good about them watching it.
A lovely homeschool friend offered to send dinner over, but it would have been so difficult for her at 4pm, so Dave brought home subway. He's been loosing weight, lately, by exercising and eating lots of subway. On the way home from church this morning, Ds#4 said, "Daddy, you just missed a Subway!" as we drove past. I think he thinks Daddy stops at one every time he sees them.
I'm sure, Dave will also put them to bed tonight. I put his name in red because he's such a sweetheart.