Saturday, September 29, 2012

And Mud Day

Okay, the other thing the boys did today was play in the mud. We had some nice heavy rain with no thunder or lightning. They played beautifully together for over an hour. That doesn't count the time Nick spent playing in the rain this morning.

happy rain dance

after bathing in the mud

snails to play with (notice the pruny hands)

our obliging dirt/mud hole

Nick halfway behind a wall

Museum Day

Today was Museum Day for us. In fact, it was Smithsonian's Museum Day Live! A few museums in our area were participating, so we decided this morning to go to two of them. Each household can get two free tickets to a participating museum, which you have to choose before you print out the ticket. Of the two museums we went to, one normally had free admission for children under 12 and the other normally had free admission for everyone, so our whole family was able to go to both for free.

We went to the fine art museum downtown and the military forces museum on base. Xander did not appear impressed with the Renaissance painters exhibit. (We are studying Raphael Sanzio right now, so it was on subject.) I was, and Nick obligingly walked through the whole exhibit with me, sometimes pointing out a detail in a painting or asking what it was. (A sword or a shield, usually, and one white sculpture was, to him, a robot.)

Erik and Xander went through exhibits at their own pace and Nick and I went through at our slightly slower pace. There was a hands-on room that Xander loved but Nick ignored. (Overall, I was very impressed with Nick's obeying the hands-off rule at the museums.) There was a modern art and installation exhibit that Xander found more interesting. Erik let him choose any piece of art to stand in front of to get his picture taken. He chose a large modern piece.

Nick liked the huge staircase. He also wanted lots and lots of food. We had gone off in enough of a hurry that I left our snack behind on the kitchen counter. We found a McDonald's on the way to the military museum and got the kids each a hamburger and french fries. Erik got a Coke. I got nothing, because I was still full from my breakfast in bed. Yes, I got to sleep in this morning. I only woke up at 9:00 because Erik brought in a breakfast tray with coffee and scrambled eggs that he had taught Xander to make. Already, I was in love with this day. And then we got to go to museums!

The military museum was a big hit with the boys. Nick liked the airplanes and helicopters. Xander liked the cannons and tanks. Oh, and he loved the detailed dioramas. I noticed some more somber information and photographs there, but I didn't want to press anyone into studying or looking at anything longer than they wanted to at these museums. (Or give them information beyond their maturity level.) I just wanted them to have the experience of being there in person. Erik was able to understand and explain some interesting facts about the weapons and ammunition. He had even found some of the ordnance we saw there on previous jobs.

the piece of art Xander chose to pose with

in the ejection seat!
"pressing the buttons"

Thursday, September 27, 2012

We Are Pretenders

Yesterday we did not finish every one of our subjects, mainly due to my energy level, which was extremely low until Erik encouraged me to go running. (I went about two miles and it felt great.) Erik was a big help getting us all out the door in the evening when he came home from work, too. We sat in the cool evening air and he tried to play catch with the boys. Nick was focusing on learning to catch until Xander entered the picture and then most of his focus was lost. I noticed that almost in the middle of a catch, he did lean over and say, "Oh, teeny tiny flowers!" about some wild (weed) flowers that had sprung up after our rains. He is very happy looking at dirt, insects, and other back yard things.

I brought Sandy outside during that time and my spirits lifted. A mosquito got me really bad, though. (Out of all creatures of nature, I think mosquitoes are some of the least uplifting in the world. I'm a wimp that way.) Then we all came in for dinner.

After the kids were put to bed, Erik and I had a good and lengthy discussion about Xander's studies. We got on the same page and did some refining of our science and math plans.

Today Xander and I have been able to do today's work as well as catch up on yesterday's. Some of the busy bag activities I put together yesterday were a big hit with Nick and actually did keep him busy some of the time that Xander and I were reading from The Hobbit and This Country of Ours.

(Specifically, Nick liked Somewhat Simple's Wacky Sacks, Motherhood on a Dime's Cotton Ball Squeeze, and an activity I found and made up years ago for Xander. I cut five pieces of copy paper in half and drew outlines of cute little piggies on nine of those smaller rectangles. Each piggy had a number written on it with a corresponding number of circles. Nick was supposed to place one penny on each circle to make the total number written.
You can see he actually used the buttons from his preschool basket instead. Very cute, I think.)

Xander is really searching for the battles in This Country of Ours. At this point in our studies, we are on Columbus, who is currently encountering kind and gentle native people. Xander wanted me to continue reading, because he was hoping to hear of a battle he could draw for his My America drawing narration. He ended up drawing Columbus and his Spaniards in their full armor landing on the first shore they found.

I am reading Nurture Shock, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, and it's a really good read. One of the chapters talks about the importance of the stages of imaginary play. According to research they had looked at, there are major benefits to be gained when children plan what they will pretend and what role they will take, and then play at that scenario for a length of time (one hour for preschoolers). Um, we have it covered. Xander and Nick do that wonderfully, and they are able to use fewer props as time goes on, which was a developmental step mentioned in the book.

Yeah, we've got that very covered. I just overheard the two of them plan what they would pretend, who they would be, and then begin their "movie." They are running around fighting with zero props, using arms for swords and such and using their mouths for sound effects. Of course.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

This Week's Goals

Last Week's Goals - Let's see how I did:


1. Go to church on Sunday.
2. Run at least 6 miles this week.
3. Start keeping a morning journal.


4. Focus on Erik when I get home from running and have nightly chores done. Forget about what I haven't yet completed for the day, or the week, or the month. {Hmm, I think I have been more about collapsing after runs than about Erik - but we did play one or two games of Through the Ages and watch our new show together.}


5. Take Nick to preschool - with homework finished.
6. Show Xander where on our history timeline the knights will fall - since he got to play with them ahead of time as part of his recovery from the tonsillectomy.


7. Call my mom, my dad, my brother, and my sister this Sunday. {I think I just missed calling my dad - and most everyone else wasn't available.}
8. Work on letters/thank you notes/projects for friends. {Nope. Didn't even get my own projects worked on. Xander's recovery week did not end up being a catch-up week. :) I did, however, read a lot.}
9. Let at least one friend know how special they are to me by picking up the phone to call or doing something else out of the way. {Oops. You all are special, though!}


10. Work on a No Spend policy for the month of October. {We're going to forgo spending this month because we need to. There is one exception: one way or another, we will get Xander to Sea World. They have a Homeschool Day coming up with a huge discount. I'll skip doing a 5K race. We will spend money on utilities and groceries, but I'll try not to buy any extras at the grocery store when I go. Our budget has been redone.}

Next Week's Goals:


1. Eat less meat.
2. Continue my morning journal time.
3. Go to CEC on Sunday.


4. Focus on Erik when I get home from running and have nightly chores done. Forget about what I haven't yet completed for the day, or the week, or the month.
5. Start re-reading The 5 Love Languages.


5. Take Nick to preschool - with homework finished.
6. Continue HUFI with Xander - start recorder lessons and practice.
7. Start Xander on 10-15 minutes reading to himself before bed to count for Pizza Hut's Book-It program.


8. Write at least one letter or note or email to a friend/family member.


9. Continue a No-Spend month.


10. Practice our clean-up routine throughout the day; work slowly but steadily on project jar or chore list except for purposeful rest and recreation times.

Charlotte Mason Homeschooling On a Budget Part 2

To follow up the Part 1 post where I listed what we have bought for the Higher Up and Further In curiculum (HUFI) this year and what we already owned, here is what we've borrowed from the library so far that is helpful for HUFI:

 A Child's Celebration of Folk Music
A Child's Celebration of Classical Music
The Philharmonic Gets Dressed
The Usborne Story of Music
Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes
Billy and Blaze
Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling Series
1-2-3 Draw Dinosaurs
Pocahontas by D'Aulaire
Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
Snowflake Bentley
The Glorious Impossible (by Madeleine L'Engle and illustrated with frescoes by Giotto)
Adios Oscar
El Gato Con Sombrero Viene de Nuevo
Hailstones and Halibut Bones (Adventures In Color)
Beth Manners' Fun Spanish for Kids

I think I forgot to mention in Part 1 that we also bought This Country of Ours.

Here are 25 free online resources for Charlotte Mason education and HUFI (please feel free to comment if you know of others):

Recovery Report

First Day

On Xander's first day, he acted like his normal self, active, happy, and eating (smooth foods) once he fully woke up from anesthesia. He requested some foods that I didn't want to give him yet, like Ramen noodles.

Second Day

The second day, he was a little more irritable and tired than usual, but otherwise pretty normal. He did not request or accept any foods that were not totally smooth. He ate and drank fine, but not a lot. Sherbet and other nice things were not necessarily finished.

Third Day

The third day, he was feeling his low fever a lot more and feeling more pain. He requested pain medicine well before it was time again. He accepted ice water while waiting for the medicine. Chocolate ice cream was rejected at times. Complained of cheek soreness once, on top of the throat pain. More lethargic, watching TV almost all day.

Fourth Day

Feeling so much better! He told me he could tell that he was healing. Ate a whole lot of turkey bacon, instant oatmeal, and yogurt.

Fifth Day

Doing great. Didn't notice when I gave his pain meds an hour later than usual. He hates that taste, though. Eating things like hot dogs, pineapple slices, Raisin Bran...

Sixth and Seventh Days

These are potentially dangerous days for some patients, when they begin to bleed again. Xander did not! He also felt better and did not take as much pain medicine. Hurray!

Pain Medication

The dosage on his pain medication was 1/2 to 1 teaspoon every 4 to 6 hours. Based on advice given by the recovery nurse, we gave a full teaspoon almost every time. During the day the first two days, we dosed every 5 hours or so. At night we did every 4 to 5 hours. On the third day, we dosed every 4 hours during the day. No more waking him at night at that point.


He was given an antibiotic prescription as well. We followed the dosage instructions of 1 1/2 teaspoons two times a day. I chose breakfast and dinner for antibiotic times. I wanted to try to have his stomach as filled as possible while taking the medications. We were told that if he developed stomach pains, we could discontinue the antibiotic. If we accidentally missed a dose, that was okay, too. The antibiotic was a precautionary measure (I assume).


Xander is recovering well from his surgery. Today he has not had any pain medicine. He and I did school work yesterday and today, although we can't start him on recorder practice (or vigorous exercise, or excess heat outside) for another week.

Last night I went for about a two-mile run. Nick wanted to "go out for a run, too," so he and I did a jog up and down the street first. He was holding his tummy a lot. Poor thing either ate too much just before, or had a tummy ache for a different reason. Didn't really bother him, though.

Speaking of running, I have run three or four times in the last week (I can't remember anymore!) for over two miles each time. This is starting to feel good again. I started and finished a book called Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. At this point, I am ready to say it is one of the best books I have ever read. Of course, I'm a runner at heart, so I'm biased - but it's a great story. I am seriously thinking about becoming largely vegetarian (and largely simple-Mexican-foodarian) after reading this book. And ditching my big cushiony running shoes.

On to this week. Xander and I have finished our HUFI Year 1 Term 1 Daily Checklists the last two days, except for the recorder practice and a geography lesson yesterday that would have required going outside. (Nick has been outside playing a lot, but he doesn't like to stay out there too long without a companion.)

rather than drawing on various piece of paper outside, Nick would rather... this, and dig in the dirt

he also loves playing with this old Robots board game we got at a garage sale

The short lessons of Charlotte Mason work like a dream with Xander, but one thing he always wants to continue forever and ever is reading James Herriott's Treasury for Children. We usually end up reading two stories instead of one.

During our break, I asked Xander if he wanted to try a drawing exercise like his brother had done the other day. I'm reading Drawing with Children, by Mona Brookes, and liking it. I agree with others who've said it seems like a lot of work for the teacher, but so far I think it might be worth the work. We haven't gotten very far. One of the preparatory lessons is to figure out at what level the student will start. For my son's age (six), she suggests trying a Level 2 drawing exercise. If he can complete most of the imitation drawings without having to stop for good, then he should start at that level. To be frank, I wasn't sure he would start at Level 2.

Two weeks ago, he and I drew a Chinese dragon step by step together. I drew some of the lines, he drew some of the lines. I simply wanted him to gain confidence. This is what we did (he hasn't quite finished coloring it):

One day, I had him try a warm-up exercise from Drawing with Children:

He complained a bit about it and, as you can see, did not quite finish.

Fast forward two weeks to what he wanted to do today (the Level 2 diagnostic exercise):

The second and fourth rows are his work. Then he wanted to do the Level 1 diagnostic exercise and another round on the Level 2:

We put it all into his new Art binder.

 Now he is drawing whatever he likes on blank pieces of paper while we listen to folk songs. After today, I feel even more hopeful about using Drawing with Children. The results shown in the book are almost unbelievable...but I can hardly believe how easily and quickly my son did these diagnostic exercises.

Oh, one more thing that makes Drawing with Children harder to implement: the author calls for complete silence during drawing lessons. I guess we'll have to do this during Nick's nap time, or that will be completely impossible. :)

If anyone wants to see what Nick did with the Level 1 diagnostic exercise, here it is:
Mona Brookes says that some three-year-olds (more like three-and-a-half-year-olds) are ready to begin learning to draw representationally. Nick is not one of them, not yet. We can try this exercise again when he is four years old. I was excited that he agreed to sit down to this and that he mostly confined his "imitations" to one square apiece. He even copied a few of them rather well!

I was surprised to see him "journal" a pair of lines in a right angle position before preschool this week. I guess the line drawing activities we did a few weeks ago stuck with him a little bit.

I think I have decided what we will do for Handicrafts at least through Christmas. I might have Xander help me make framed silhouettes of himself and his brother for grandparents. He can help me put together these potpourri packages for Christmas gifts. Starting today (or at the latest, next week), we can learn to collect and press leaves and flowers. He will appreciate that, I think, and I found some good examples on Pinterest.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Charlotte Mason Homeschooling On A Budget Part 1

So, we have begun to follow the Charlotte Mason curriculum Higher Up and Further In (HUFI), put together by Linda Johnson. Most of the homeschool day posts so far have been about our HUFI work, but we also have our Core Knowledge and Singapore (and other) materials.

Following Charlotte Mason education on a budget is not hard to do. Often, Charlotte Mason living books (and her own books) are available free online. What follows is what I have learned as a Charlotte Mason newbie, so there is still much to discover and learn.

Reading her Original Homeschooling Series, one can see her examples for how to teach beginning geography and nature study for no money at all. (They include careful observation, helpful but rare comments from the teacher, measuring a student's stride and then using that as a measurement for distances near the home, and observing and naming the sun's movements during a day, among others.) I was able to find several of her recommended books for free online (list to follow in Part 2). The study of artists and composers can be well done using library resources.

Another example from the HUFI curriculum: We have not set aside money to buy Paddle to the Sea, at least not yet, but I found the short film free here. Xander loved it (in fact both boys did) and we were able to track Paddle's progress with a clay canoe moving across our laminated map (though we did a much-abbreviated version using the film, I can tell).

I am still looking for and collecting resources, but this is what we bought this year for the HUFI curriculum:
  • two nice photo albums for the boys' Picture Studies (will be used for years)
  • one deck of Go Fish for Art Renaissance Artists (should have bought two if I wanted a copy of each picture for each of the boys)
  • two small sketchbooks
  • one deck of vintage Norman Rockwell playing cards
  • a small globe
  • 1 pack of nice watercolor pencils
  • James Herriott's Treasury for Children
  • Progressive Recorder Method for Young Beginners (tip: the CD does not come with this book, only instructions for ordering one for $10)
  • Yamaha recorder
  • 3 binders (will be used for years)
  • 1 large notebook (will be used for years)
  • Learning Spanish & English flashcards
The approximate total we spent for this was $94.00 (USD).

Here is what we already had that is compatible with HUFI:
  • control notebook for me
  • index cards
  • The Nutcracker
  • iTunes and various classical music albums
  • Doctor Dolittle
  • Tales from Shakespeare
  • The Aesop for Children
  • Pippi Longstocking
  • The Children's Book of Heroes
  • A Child's Garden of Verses
  • When We Were Very Young
  • lots more literature that will be appropriate at older ages
  • computer and Internet access
  • small dry-erase boards
  • pencil boxes
  • a printer
  • a small chalk board
  • some art supplies and paper
  • several books by C.S. Lewis
  • several books by Madeleine L'Engle
  • several books by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Story of the World, Volume I 
  • one trees nature guide
  • two birds nature guides
  • buttons, coins, beans, etc. for math manipulatives
In Part 2, I'll type up what we've borrowed from the library for HUFI and give links to free online sources I've found.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Weekly Goals

Here is what I did in terms of my goals last week:

Last week's goals:


1. Go to church on Sunday.
2. Run at least 5 miles this week. {Ran about 7.}
3. Start keeping a morning journal. {Where is my journal, by the way? That is what kept me from starting. :)}


4. Have another wine tasting and game playing night. {I really like our new game, bought for Erik's birthday: Through the Ages.}

5. Focus on Erik when I get home from running and have nightly chores done. Forget about what I haven't yet completed for the day, or the week, or the month. {I think I did this; maybe I should ask him!}


6. Take Nick to preschool - with homework finished.
7. Go on a nature hike as a family.


8. Finish my first Mother Bear Project bear.
9. Call both my mom and dad this Sunday.


10. Call insurance company. !!

Finished 7 out of 10!

10 Goals For This Week:


1. Go to church on Sunday.
2. Run at least 6 miles this week.
3. Start keeping a morning journal.


4. Focus on Erik when I get home from running and have nightly chores done. Forget about what I haven't yet completed for the day, or the week, or the month.


5. Take Nick to preschool - with homework finished.
6. Show Xander where on our history timeline the knights will fall - since he got to play with them ahead of time as part of his recovery from the tonsillectomy.


7. Call my mom, my dad, my brother, and my sister this Sunday.
8. Work on letters/thank you notes/projects for friends.
9. Let at least one friend know how special they are to me by picking up the phone to call or doing something else out of the way.


10. Work on a No Spend policy for the month of October.

Nick's Funnies

"Halloween says...Yes great day."

This is what he said to Grandma Bonnie on the phone just now. Much of what Nick says on the phone to people makes sense, but much is just stream of consciousness phrases. They may be sentences in his mind, but they don't really make sense to us. If he is walking around his room while on the phone, for instance, he might say, "And play with bugs the figure is like locust skins with camouflage to sit on Cars bed. I say 'pew pew pew' to shoot him. And he is like car tracks with the fish books like this with camouflage."

And on and on. He usually will not stop the conversation until we do.

Another funny: When I told him, "I love you," he said, "I love you, soon."

Procedure Completed

Xander did great today. His tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy went smoothly and the nurses said he did very well and was brave. He had his kitty with him the whole time, but I'm not sure that he really noticed. I read The Hobbit to him while we waited (from about 5:30 am until almost 7:00) to keep his mind off what was coming up. He never showed the nervousness or fear that I expected.

It took him quite a while to stop being groggy and vaguely irritated in the recovery room. Ever since then, though, he has done better than expected. He even wants to eat more than I want him to eat. We've already moved on to mashed potatoes and yogurt from jello, sherbet shake, and juice. I think I'll let him try a finely diced piece of shrimp for dinner tonight along with the other mushy stuff. If he wants to.

He's on hydrocodone mixed with Tylenol and I've been advised to wake him up in the middle of the night to keep him on a dosage schedule. It's possible he'll feel worse tomorrow or the next day than he does today. It's also possible he'll lose up to ten pounds before he gains it back again, which would be ridiculous on Xander's frame.

One strange side effect of the procedure that we were warned about was that some kids' voices go up an octave and become very nasal for about a month. Then they go back to normal. This seems to have happened to Xander's voice.

Nick had a great time playing with his friend at her house this morning. He was glad to see us when we picked him up, though. I don't know why it is really hitting me today rather than any other day, but he is a HUNGRY kid! He is always wanting something else! I mean, right now he is eating cold refried beans, so it's not just that he wants continuous treats.

I allowed Xander to play with his new knights today. That was the first thing he wanted to do after getting home. I'm also allowing as much TV/DVD watching as he wants in order to keep him as still as he is supposed to be. Total stillness and the absence of jumping is just not going to happen, I'm afraid. I plan to keep him inside for about a week, but I catch him running down the hallway to his bedroom or the bathroom.

So it might be PBS and knights this week. I'll try to get them drawing or painting, too.

Monday, September 17, 2012


We went geocaching as a family on Saturday. The cache Erik looked up for us to find was great for us. It took us to a beautiful park and playground about 15 minutes away. We went several meters down a gravel path and arrived at the GPS location of the cache. I was able to find it in one of the wooden blocks supporting the edge of the path. Xander found a bird's feather.

I showed Nick a huge acorn cap that had been flattened, and he said, "Hmm," and put it in his mouth. No, Nick. That's not what I meant to happen.

Then we played on the playground for about a half hour. It had a few nice playground set-ups plus a house with an actual stairway and windows plus swings plus a picnic table plus a ball field. Next to this area was the pool, which has been closed for the season. Next to that is a set-up meant to model a homestead, complete with a pioneer wagon. Very cool.

Today we got up, ate, got dressed, did a chore or two, played a computer game (Xander), and went to preschool. At preschool, Nick:
  • "signed" in
  • went straight for the shell tables - a light table and a preschool table with four colored trays that each had their own supply of shells, magnifying glass, and popcorn fork
  • played with different colors of Moon Sand
  • painted a painting that he later told Xander was an apple - I doubt it, because Nick just happened to be eating an apple as he said that, but it was made with lots of red paint and then some yellow :)
  • played a magnet sorting activity
  • introduced himself to someone's grandma to whom he took a liking
  • played with shells a ton more
  • played with Moon Sand some more
  • looked at The Very Hungry Caterpillar instead of participating for part of group time
  • participated in part of group time, but was also resistant for half of it, and was acting and looking so.very.sleepy
It was just so cool to be in this place with all these quality materials and games.  The teacher/coordinator came by and asked what our goals were for Nick (to give him practice at a structured group environment and to give him one-on-one attention). She assured us we would meet those goals. Other people that I overheard had goals like having their child know and say their full name or to speak more clearly the "y" sound or something having to do with writing, etc. I would love for Nick to learn how to make the "s" sound instead of this nasal-"h"-plus-lispy-"s" sound that he has made since babyhood, and I would love for him to grip a pencil or paint brush the right way, and I would love for him to participate fully in group time...but I don't think those are really my goals for this situation. I know he will learn new things at preschool and that's great with me. Do I sound like the mother of a second child or what? My attitude was a little different when it was just Xander.

Here's our journal page from today:

 Our homework for next week is to have Nick talk about his time at preschool today and to have him draw about it in his journal. I already had him tell his favorite thing to Xander, but I'll try again tomorrow or the next day so we can use terms like "yesterday." Right now he uses "tomorrow" and "this afternoon" and "right now" pretty much interchangeably.

Xander decided to listen to six sections of The Story of the World today. He colored, cut out, and pasted relevant pictures to put on our timeline. He began the part about ancient Egypt, and by coincidence, this month's online Lego class was about Egyptian pyramids, so he watched that as well.

I decided he can finally play with his knights from Hobby Lobby this week after his surgery. We are having a Grace Week instead of school because of his surgery and recovery. I'll be showing Xander where on his wall timeline the knights would fall so at least he has an idea of how far in the "future" it is compared to his studies.

The kids have been playing Duplos together. I was interested to see what kind of creations Nick made. He hasn't played with the Duplos in a while, and in the meantime, he has become more sophisticated at imagining play scenarios.

I've been spending the day preparing for the surgery tomorrow, and calling the insurance company again.

Ha ha! Just found a great acorn cap craft on Pinterest. I showed Xander and asked if he thought we had any acorn caps in our yard. He said, "Come on, Nick!" and ran right outside to look and see.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Friday Fun

I went running last night and it felt marvelous. I ran twice as much as I had planned. I was on the park trail and it was about 70 degrees and cloudy. Friendly people jogged, walked, and biked past me. I felt strong. It was the most fantastic experience.

I followed some tips from an athlete and drank an Airborne fizzy drink in the morning, then had a Muscle Milk drink (with glutamine) plus a tiny bit of dinner right before going for the run. I don't know if the drinks had anything to do with my feeling strong - more likely it was the weather - but I will keep that in mind.

Xander and I had a Picture Study yesterday. We looked at a painting by Raphael Sanzio ("St. George Slaying the Dragon," of course) and he described it in detail to me while I covered my eyes. I read a few bits about the artist that I thought would be interesting. Then I gave a postcard of the painting to Xander to place in his Book of Masterpieces (the photo album he picked out at Hobby Lobby last week). I am thankful to Linda Fay of for the idea. Having a Book of Masterpieces for each child is meant to encourage them to treat the works of art as precious possessions. I noticed that after we placed that painting card in his book, Xander held it closely to his chest until it was time to put it away.

We also listened to a few minutes of Peter and the Wolf. Xander liked playing around on the kids section of the San Francisco Symphony website as well.

Nick and I played outside a little bit, and the kids played around inside a lot. We all laid down for a few minutes together and read Saint George and the Dragon (retold by Margaret Hodges).

We had Sandy come hang out with us in the evening. I took a video of him making happy chirruping sounds and climbing around on the papasan chair. Then I took a quick video of Nick reading to himself. The humming is representative of his "reading" style. {Both videos had errors uploading so I won't be able to include them, at least not today.}

Here are a few pictures of the day:

Mom's Best Day Ever

It's not just Xander. Nick has been doing plenty these days, too. He loooooooves the A Child's Celebration of Folk Music CD I borrowed from the library. I like it because the songs are attractive to children but arranged and sung in a "real song" kind of way rather than a cheerful, infant, children's album way. The artists include Pete Seeger, Taj Mahal, Jerry Garcia, Woody Guthrie, and Michelle Shocked.

Nick also seemed to like the "Carl" book I borrowed.

We've been putting together puzzles and erasing dots I draw with dry-erase markers and drawing lines in certain directions and painting and coloring a face while talking about the different body parts. He's been doing lots of pretend run-around play with his brother. We've done the activities in a Dinosaur Train lapbook. I even helped him try out finger knitting when he got interested in a finger knitting video on Youtube.

He listens to the music Xander studies and looks at the art Xander looks at and hears a lot of the same stories, especially the Spanish picture books and chapters from The Hobbit.

Erik is working from home today. He received a text that cousin Bailey got through her surgery this morning and is recovering nicely.

Because Erik is at home, I got to pick up my hold book at the library and grab some other educational books for the kids without bringing them (the kids) with me. The construction at the library has encountered delays (surprise, surprise) so this week's story times are canceled. I just assumed they would be. Has a construction project ever ended on time?

We had a lovely day so far. We:
  • read a chapter of The Hobbit
  • finished the story of Leif and the Vikings in This Country of Ours
  • had Xander draw a picture of something he remembered from the story
  • memorized more of "Summer Afternoon"
  • had Xander do two more hole-punching cards
  • played and read with Nick off and on when we had extra minutes
  • saw Xander begin to draw a "book" of extra Vikings drawings
  • read "Happiness" by A.A. Milne
  • read the Aesop fable "The Crab and Its Mother" and Xander narrated back to me the gist of the story
  • read about the Wigglers in Among the Night People, about the life cycles and habits of mosquitoes (in fictional form)
  • did a quick clean-up in which both boys (or should I say kittens, because they were meowing the whole time, even when I said they could sing while working) helped me wipe the kitchen counters, sink, the stove, the dining room table, and Nick's booster seat - they truly did a quality job - and cleaned up Nick's floor so we could use the Mint floor cleaner on it
  • put Nick down for nap by singing to him and tucking him in
  • read the first half of the chapter about Columbus in This Country of Ours
  • had Xander nicely write, "They cast their arrows..." underneath his Viking battle picture
Xander is now off playing, but if his recorder arrives today like it should, I will also teach him a quick first lesson on it (basically, how to play the note "B" and how to tongue several quarter notes of  "B" in a row). I will also make sure he knows how to clean it and where to keep it.

Update: Recorder won't be arriving until Monday or Tuesday, at which time Xander is having his tonsillectonomy (and adenoidectomy). I don't think we'll be practicing recorder for another couple of weeks.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

In Which We Go Through Another Day

These summaries of what we do each day must be incredibly boring, but I am going to do an even more tedious one now. The reason is that typing these schedules out help me learn what works for us and what doesn't.

Today I was slow getting up and slow to do my regular chores. I got things done little by little, but not systematically, and some chores and duties were skipped. Usually, my example is what sets the tone for the day, so I am curious to see how the rest of this day goes.

6:40ish I got up, made coffee, and mooned around on the computer

7:00ish I heard noises coming from Nick's room but nobody emerged

7:30ish Nick came out to be officially up for the day. I served him yogurt, peanut butter honey toast, and strawberry milk with Vitamin D added (I often use Carlson's Vitamin D drops for children based on tips from pharmacist moms who read Valerie's Babywise Mom blog and from our pediatrician). I also put on a load of laundry and got dressed. Nick got a pair of shorts on. That's all. His underwear stash has been depleted by the number of times I threw away his messy accidents. I guess I need to go buy more; they're kind of a necessity. Nick has gone #2 in the potty on his own a couple of times in the last few days, by the way!!!!!!!!!!!!

8:00ish Erik got up and I took Nick to the porch to paint a watercolor painting. I'm so glad I did that, because my one-on-one attention to Nick is suffering while I homeschool Xander. I still have one-on-one time with him, but the only things we tend to do during this time are reading and cuddling and talking. Not that those things are bad, but the poor boy wants to do other things, too. Watercolor painting requires a lot of my supervision because he doesn't remember to put his brush in the water between every color yet. Erik didn't get a packed lunch because we were painting instead of putting together the final touches of a lunch.

Nick made a snake shape, whether on purpose or by accident, and told me it was a snake. When he used green paint, that was a frog. Other things were battle droids, apparently.

I am so glad that we will be doing preschool so that Nick gets fun one-on-one time with me surrounded by amazing materials. That reminds me, part of our homework this week is to have Nick decorate the cover of a notebook that will serve as our goals journal. That will be a good activity for him while Xander and I are doing school work.

Between 8:30 and 9:00 I switched the load of laundry to the dryer and mooned around on the computer more. Xander got up. I fed him the same menu Nick had eaten. Nick had been sitting on the couch reading for a while, and somehow Xander immediately antagonized him by making conversation. (Not Xander's fault, probably.) I put on the TV and the kids watched Super Why!, Dinosaur Train, and Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. TV in general is really rubbing me the wrong way lately, so I wish I wouldn't turn it on at vulnerable moments like lazy mornings and late afternoons. Bad me. During this time, Xander was drawing pictures using his markers and our animal stamps. He made a dragon out of a few different animal stamps put together "because I don't know how to draw a dragon."

I gave Nick (and me) a snack of turkey bacon, and more milk for Nick. I considered making more coffee even though I've already had three small mugs this morning.

10:30 I put Nick into independent playtime. He was very tired and even resorted to slapping himself in the face. I assume that was to banish the feelings of drowsiness. Xander and I got ready for school by clearing the table and saying the pledges. I wrote our schedule down on the dry erase board titled "Wonderful Wednesday."

10:45 We listened to "How the Camel Got His Hump" in Just So Stories. We had extra time and Xander really wanted to listen to another one, so we put on "How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin." He wanted to listen to another after that, but there wasn't enough time. As I got out his next activity, he told me, "This is the worst morning ever. All because of what you are doing." He didn't sound very upset, though, so I think he was trying to get a rise out of me. I said, "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. Your math activity is on the table and I'll explain it when you get there."

And everything went smoothly until he decided the activity was too hard. I think he didn't like seeing how big the stack of cards was. I had one card for each for numbers 4 through 11.

11:00 I put on "Scarborough Fair" while Xander did the hole-punching math activity. I decided he could do two cards per day.

11:15 We read "Summer Afternoon" three times and played around with reciting the first line with most of the words erased on our dry erase board. I am surprised at how he views this as a game. He hasn't complained once about memorizing a poem.

Nick had a peanut butter honey sandwich. Both boys had milk. We are low on milk.

11:30 Half hour break; Xander said he had a sore throat; I learned we are out of Children's Advil; I planned a trip to the store.

I helped Nick use materials like stickers, glue, tissue paper, and paintbrush markers to decorate the cover of his new school journal. The cover was decorated, then he wanted to put a large piece of tissue paper over all of it, like so:

Then we all went to WalMart. I almost never go there, but today we needed toddler underwear and I didn't want the wheedling that usually goes with our Target trips (Legos, Goldfish, and ice cream, oh my). Our local WalMart doesn't seem to have prices much lower than Target, and HEB beats them out, so I don't normally go there. Unfortunately, HEB does not carry underwear.

I decided to go ahead and try to get the week's groceries while we were there without having planned out all our meals first. This is a major no-no in my book, but then again, taking advantage of being out while we're out is a good thing. I think we are nearly done with our week's shopping. Hurray!

Nick and Xander are having their first caramel apples ever. I told Xander the apple might pull his loose teeth out but he was welcome to take the risk if he wanted. This is their "fall treat." We agreed they would only have it once a year.

Nick went down for his nap pretty late today at 2:00. At his age, the difference between 1:00 and 2:00 doesn't seem to matter. 1:30 seems to be a really good time for him right now. He slept until 4:00ish.

Xander got to play. I was too tired myself to make him finish his last two school activities. I laid down instead.

We had meatballs and spiral noodles and fruit salad for dinner. With a LOT of prompting from Erik and enforcing that Nick could not get down until he finished, Nick finished his whole plate. (It was a small plate of small portions.) He did this the evening before, too. Everyone finished his or her dinner and we all clapped for each other.

After I got dressed for my run, Xander and Nick and I jogged down our street and back again. They were playing Star Wars the whole time. Xander was pretending to run and fight with his light saber and Nick kept saying something about there being "too many" enemies.

Then I went on my two-mile run. I'm guessing it was two miles based on past runs. I was out for almost 21 minutes. Erik had the boys watching a PBS documentary on lions and humans and the book and movie Born Free. They filmed the movie using untrained, as in non-circus, lions, can you imagine?

The book Born Free was written by Joy Adamson. She and her husband, George, raised a lion cub to adulthood in Kenya and then released her. It seems that the lion (Elsa) was always imprinted on and loyal to them. Both Joy and George were later murdered, Joy by a former employee they had fired and George by poachers when he rushed in to save a tourist who had gotten caught up with them. I find it telling that, in the wilds of Kenya, sometimes on intimate terms with full-grown lions and cheetahs, they were both killed by human beings.

Xander and I drew a Chinese dragon using a step by step tutorial. I wanted to show him that it is possible to draw something even if you think you don't know how. I had him look for the different shapes that we needed to draw. For example, the spikes along the dragon's body were not quite triangles, but I showed him how they were basically triangles but with curved tops.

Then Nick and I and Sandy went outside in the twilight. Sandy always seems calm and interested outside. He stretches his neck up whenever he feels a breeze. I could never let him run around out there because we have plenty of flying predators in the area, but I do hold him out there every once in a great while. Nick got to see the first star of the night. And the second, and third. Etc. He loves being outside.

After that, it was bedtime. I invited Xander to ask me any questions he wanted to. He asked me how markers are made, why their tips are always pointed, why they draw thinner than crayons, and how Legos are made and put into boxes.

Erik and I tasted a wine (which happened to be very bitter - yuck) and played Star Trek Expeditions. We were blown out of the sky and basically failed to the utmost in all our missions. It was a good time together, though. :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

It's Try Our Best Day

Today is going very well. I decided to have a brief heart-to-heart with Xander before starting school about our attitude for the day. That got him to grudgingly start the school portion of our day.

On a small dry-erase board, I wrote "It's Tuesday! Try Our Best Day!" and then I listed times and the subjects we would be doing at those times. I told Xander he could continue coloring on his Star Wars Story Studio book every time we finished a subject before 15 minutes were up. We've been using the timer for each subject, and each time we have had a few minutes for him to color. He gets to erase each subject as we finish it from the dry-erase board. I think he really likes this way of doing things, and I do, too. If we continue, it will teach him the value of getting things done at the right time and not getting distracted in order to make extra time for leisure. I hope.

Got the Pizza Hut Book-It materials in the mail. They're not much, just a pamphlet explaining the rules plus reward certificates that I fill out and he brings in for a free personal pan pizza. I like that the teacher sets the goal for the student(s), so it can be a goal of minutes per day, pages per day, or number of books per month. My goal for Xander is fifteen minutes of reading to himself every day.

Also got the James Herriott's Treasury for Children in the mail. As I predicted, Xander fell in love with it. The book is large and hardcover, so the beautiful illustrations of animals in the Yorkshire Dales are just as important to the book as the stories. We are in the middle of the first story, Moses the Kitten.

If Xander continues to like James Herriott, we own a couple of his adult books, All Things Bright and Beautiful and All Things Wise and Wonderful.

Today, Xander did many minutes of Star Wars Jedi Math. Fifteen minutes were for school. Now he's playing for free time. Tomorrow I'll make sure he does a hands-on math activity (that doesn't include hands on a control pad). He listened to the rest of a story in Among the Night People. Both boys listened to Scarborough Fair (the Simon and Garfunkel version) several times. I printed out the lyrics and began a Folk Songs binder so we can learn a couple of songs per 12 weeks.

I read him another fable from Aesop and he narrated back to me what had happened in it. He learned a new Spanish word, mariposa, and I read him part of the book Adios, Oscar! Una Fabula de Mariposas. He continues to be interested in picture books even when they are in Spanish. Of course, we read aloud from The Hobbit again.

Xander also learned about the zoom function on his new camera and took a couple of pictures to compare zoomed in with zoomed out. (Below are my pictures; I haven't tried to figure out how to connect his camera to the computer yet.)

I put an apron on Nick so he could help me make a snack; instead he shared his apple with a dinosaur

he was very helpful, assisting the dinosaur in chewing

here Xander is copying a phrase from This Country of Ours

Weekly Goals

I'm nervous to see how I did on last week's goals. Here they are, crossed out if I did them:

Last week's goals:


1. Go to church on Sunday. {This was the day I slept half the day.}
2. Run at least 5 miles this week. {I ran 3.5.}
3. Get Locks of Love hair cut.


4. Have another wine tasting and game playing night. {We did taste another wine, but didn't play another game.}


5. Schedule Xander's tonsil removal surgery.
6. Finish the first chapter of The Hobbit.


7. Finish my first Mother Bear Project bear.
8. Call both my mom and dad this Sunday. {Talked to my mom; wanted to call my dad; see above about sleeping.}


9. Write two remaining Homemaking Cottage articles for September.


10. Call insurance company. ! {!}

Ew. I did even less than last week in terms of completing these written goals. On the bright side, homeschooling is going well and last night's running was awesome. Maybe I am on the upswing.

10 Goals For This Week:


1. Go to church on Sunday.
2. Run at least 5 miles this week.
3. Start keeping a morning journal.


4. Have another wine tasting and game playing night.

5. Focus on Erik when I get home from running and have nightly chores done. Forget about what I haven't yet completed for the day, or the week, or the month.


6. Take Nick to preschool - with homework finished.
7. Go on a nature hike as a family.


8. Finish my first Mother Bear Project bear.
9. Call both my mom and dad this Sunday.


10. Call insurance company. !!

Preschool Starts

This morning was the parent orientation for a preschool program we are participating in with Nick. It is one of the free programs offered in association with the school district. It is well organized. The preschool "class" room is fantastic. It's just as good as or better than the pre-k classrooms Xander attended. It might be smaller, but all the resources are much newer.

There are "workstations" rather than "centers," named that way because the teacher/coordinator wants to emphasize that when children are playing they are working at learning. There is an easel with paints, art station, reading station, writing station with various surfaces to write on, science station, block station, manipulatives station, sensory station, math games and toys station, and the place where the kids pick up their picture/name tags and have their group time.

Preschool only happens once a week for a regularly scheduled hour. Our class is the one on Monday mornings. If we are more than five minutes late, they lock the door. I kind of like that because one of the reasons Erik and I wanted to enroll Nick is to get him used to a structured school-like environment. Of course, they don't lock the doors in public school, but they do make you go to the office and get a "tardy." I do hope to homeschool Nick as he gets older, but he will need these skills for many other kinds of groups he might want to join in the future.

The kids (mostly three-year-olds) start by "signing in" next to their name. Then they go in with their parent(s) and pick up their picture/name tag from the table to put it on. They explore the stations however they want to or however their parents encourage them. During the last ten minutes or so, the children gather together for group time.

The place is beautiful. They have a nice outdoor playground for little ones at their center (which is part of the portable buildings outside a local middle school). There is a child care area that is quite large. Xander will be spending the time there. He will be the oldest, since other older siblings are in public school, but he won't mind that. Just some of the things I saw in there were:
  • a nice wall map of the United States
  • all kinds of blocks and magnet vehicles
  • a mini trampoline with bars to hold on to
  • a "house" made of mats in formation
  • a kitchen area
  • a dress-up area
  • a baby/toddler crawl and rocking chair area
  • a marble run
 There were plenty of other areas and toys in there; I couldn't take it all in while helping Nick get his shoes on, finding Xander, and getting Nick's picture taken for his name tag.

One drawback was that both boys seemed worn out by the time we got home. It was only 10:15 or so, but I gave them lunch instead of a snack and then had Nick do independent playtime. Xander could not get any school work done without whining, so we went back and forth on whether or not he was going to do his schoolwork or lay down in his bed without playing toys. He rested for more than half an hour.

Meanwhile, Nick got out and admitted he had to go potty. I had him sit on the potty and bribed him with another ice cream cone if he did #2 in the potty again. I just really want to make this second nature for him. He did it! (Hurray! I shouted mentally.)

Nick and I read National Geographic books almost all the way up to naptime.

In fits and starts, Xander:
  • listened to another two sections of The Story of the World
  • colored, cut, and glued to index cards pictures of what he had heard
  • put those cards on our wall timeline in order
  • played Star Wards Jedi Math on his Leapster
  • listened to The Hobbit
  • discussed the saying "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" with me
  • listened to Johnny Appleseed, the version retold and illustrated by Steven Kellogg (Xander was really captured by his illustrations)
  • listened to the poem "Buckingham Palace" by A.A. Milne
  • copied a phrase from This Country of Ours underneath his illustration showing the action: "the house was finished"
We're steadily getting through The Hobbit. Xander usually wants to listen to it at breakfast time and before bed.

Yesterday evening I went for a two-mile run and it felt great. I told Erik it was either the five days or so I took off or the temperature. For the last two days, we have had lows of about 60 degrees and highs of 90ish degrees. It feels wonderful.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Milestone, I Hope

Nick achieved a milestone! A gross milestone! Thanks to Erik having him sit on the potty chair and watching him like a hawk most of the day, he finally went #2 there. He got his promised ice cream cone, months and months after the promise was made.

We're hoping this was the breakthrough. Since he trained himself for #1, we assume that now he knows that it actually works, he will do the same for #2. If it wasn't the breakthrough...I will be sad.

I slept half the day yesterday without feeling any less tired. It is probably the running (as little as I have been doing) and it makes me feel like an old lady!

In other news...Nick hums his way through most activities. He even "read" a National Geographic book to me the other day by asking, for each page, "You wanna hear the lizard {or whatever other creature was on the page}?" When I said yes, he would hum a phrase for that animal. A different phrase for each animal.

As a result of his humminess and talkiness, there is almost never a silent moment here. I must have finally gotten used to it; it doesn't bother me. It does bother Xander, when he is trying to watch a movie, talk to me, play, or rest.

(Well, to be completely truthful, it is trying on those days when every sentence is opened with, "Mo-om! Mo-om! Mo-om! Talk to Nick!!")

This is just one more sign that Nick is really into music. I am going to have him study songs and composers along with Xander (to the best of his ability) because I think we would be shortchanging him not to encourage his musical interest.

Xander loves music, too, especially patriotic songs. He can identify orchestral instruments with great accuracy when we're listening to a song being played by those types of instruments. He even recognizes one or two classical music songs. I'm hoping that I can find some way (or some person) to teach him voice lessons so he can gain a stronger, more tuneful voice. Very soon, I will be teaching him to play the recorder. If he will keep up with it (cheerfully), I think he will love having the ability to "make songs" himself.

The boys played around experimenting with our keyboard yesterday. Erik played some tunes as well.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

September Saturday

Erik went out to a football game today.

Meanwhile, the rest of us hung out, did a couple of errands, and schooled a bit.

In the morning, Xander played games on while I actually took a little nap and Nick had independent playtime. I have been exhausted lately!

Later in the day, we went to Hobby Lobby to pick up a couple of photo albums for our Picture Studies and a sketchbook and watercolor pencils for our nature journals. (I plan to have Nick follow along for the Picture/Art Studies and the composers and songs we learn. He can draw while we're out using nature journals, but he's not going to use the good watercolor pencils.) We also picked up a Balance Bird for Nick. I got a pack of their educational figures (knights) after Xander pleaded. He can't have them until we get to studying that time period in our World History.

That motivated him to do a World History section today.

  • listened to section 2, The Nomads, from The Story of the World
  • narrated to me a few facts he had heard about nomads
  • cut out, glued to an index card, colored, and hung an illustration of nomads on our wall timeline - it's our first history timeline event!
  • practiced using the watercolor pencils on paper; he didn't want to paint water over top of his pencil drawings but I did some experimenting (see below)
  • listened to "America the Beautiful" a few times and tried singing along (he has heard it before, notably last year at school)
  • listened to a story in Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
  • listened to me read part of a story from Among the Night People by Clara Dillingham Pierson
  • played in the back yard for a while
  • spent many minutes playing with the Balance Bird (it cost us about $2 and we've already gotten way more than our money's worth in enjoyment - see below)
  • used animal stamps on paper for fun
  • held Sandy on his lap while watching another Dinotopia DVD
Xander made a ninja with nunchuks and (I think) an ax

this is a baby dinosaur, I forget what kind

just an illustration of how Nick looks after we go anywhere that has dirt

this one is even more true to life, but really he looks even more covered in person
I used an idea from Valerie's blog Children's Learning Activities to have Nick do horizontal lines...

...and vertical lines, and a square

this is what I drew with the watercolor pencils (Xander also did a fill-in-the-loops drawing)

this is after brushing water over top - if I had pressed harder with the pencils while drawing, the water-added product would have brighter colors
this is our current homeschool central (apart from this book case, we write/draw on the dining room table, do a daily calendar in Nick's room, keep nature journal supplies in a basket near the front door, and store extra art and craft materials and paper in the garage) (oh, yes, we also have a small basket of activities for Nick during school time and a big library basket that gets refilled every week)

the Balance Bird on a football!

Balance Bird on the top of a baseball bat!

Balance Bird on a crack in the wood post!
BB on the handle of a tricycle!

BB on Xander's finger tip!

this guy is trying to come around to see what I'm taking a picture of, as usual

BB on a water ball!
I'm trying to identify this tree in our back yard but no luck so far