Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Today's Joys

Today we slept in a bit.

For "school," we read Sky Color by Peter H. Reynolds, read a Bible story, looked through The Usborne Introduction to Art and N.C. Wyeth's Pilgrims, and drew. We spent a little time outside in the wet; it rained all day yesterday.
I studied Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning, by Oliver and Rachel DeMille, and a couple of Miquon math books my new homeschooling friend loaned me.

We will be writing a birthday card and wrapping birthday presents later, before we go to a friend's seventh birthday party.

I get to go running midday because our neighbor is watching the boys during that time!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


I am so impressed with Nick's "school" progress lately. Everything I do with him is pretty flexible. I start with a plan and assume that it might not work out and might be too old for him. If he resists too much, I stop.

However, he doesn't resist as much as Xander did at young ages. He asks for "the A book" every day, which is a really repetitive book where we learn rhymes about the sounds letters make, slowly and painstakingly. He has always shown a more obvious appreciation for music and rhythm, so maybe the vowel poem in The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading is right up his alley.

I knew he knew a lot of the sounds the letters make, but with this teaching guide, I can figure out methodically what he knows and doesn't know. He's got the vowel sounds down now, though there is some confusion sometimes between the 'o' and 'u' sounds and the 'a' and 'e' sounds. Xander had that, too, I think.

By request, he's been listening to math songs that I intended for Xander. We'll see how much he learns of math by the end of the year just by eavesdropping and using Xander's materials.

We've been doing Slow and Steady Get Me Ready activities for a while. They're very fun for him. For instance, today I got out 10 clothespins and helped him count them. We stood behind a line and tried throwing clothespins into a bucket, one by one. We counted how many were out of the bucket and how many were in the bucket when we were done. I asked him which number was larger and more. He got that correct.

He's also been liking his Kumon tracing book, which is perfect practice for writing. Xander never liked those kinds of books except for the Kumon cutting book.

Last but definitely not least, Nick is excitedly learning how to put on and take off shirts and shoes. (Those are harder than shorts and underwear.)

I've mentioned before how he likes all aspects of music and art. He can point out the Mona Lisa to you in a book of paintings and loves to draw and paint himself. Right now he likes to "play piano" on our keyboard, using his beloved Myths and Legends book as a "piano book." I've ordered a series of preschool piano books that both boys will love to learn from (I hope). They start with animal characters that stand for each of the fingers (Pointer Panda, Ringo Raccoon, etc.).  The activities are colorful and fun. Later, if they continue their piano learning, I plan to order a series of piano books for more experienced players that are based around original comics.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Simple Service

I really want to teach my kids to think of others and not just themselves. Erik and I both want this. So he thought it was a good idea when I suggested picking up trash on a nearby trail this Sunday.

I've looked on and off for service projects young kids can do and have had limited success. We've done a few things here and there, but nothing on an ongoing basis. This post about teaching kids to serve in simple ways really impacted me.

It should be mentioned that Xander is really generous. He shares well and buys gifts for friends and cousins with his own money. But how easy is it to get into a habit of thinking about your own wellbeing and your own toys and the things you want day after day? Easy. Very easy.

He was actually resistant to getting out of the house (where he was playing with toys) and picking up trash. Once we got there, he was a big help but not without some complaints about the heat. ;) Nick mostly watched.

We drove to a nearby pretty trail with a garbage bag and a few gloves and some waters. It didn't take long to find plenty of trash, even though the trail looks nice overall. Erik and Xander picked up most of the trash we saw. I was carrying a purse and all of our waters and holding Nick's hand. And taking pictures. We walked the trail and played on the playground at the end of it. Then we walked back to our car, drove home and disposed of the trash, and went on with our day.

I've signed up to volunteer where Xander went to his day camp about caring for dogs, but it is going to be a long process to volunteer there. (New Volunteer Orientations that get full quickly, events are not all kid-friendly...) In the meantime, we are going to do acts of simple service as a family.

Another Mother-Son Date

I forgot to get a photo of us again, but this is one Xander took of his stuffed animals after he made his bed.

I did my two mother-son dates in the last few weeks. It's Erik's turn for father-son dates during the next month.

I took Xander to, you (maybe) guessed it, Target. He had some allowance money to spend and decided to buy an Imaginext Batwing vehicle with another version of Batman. He was very excited about that.

Then we hopped over to Half Price Books. I had a great coupon and Xander had earned a small prize for finishing 30 chores, so we got a couple of things there. I found a kids' drawing book kit that Xander agreed would be fun and do-able. Xander chose a cute stuffed donkey. He would have preferred a stuffed bat, but they didn't have any in the store.

In the car, it was Xander's choice of music, of course. He likes pop and pop-rock songs.

One of Those "Hard" Days

Today is one of the days when it has taken until 2:30 p.m. to get through school stuff. I have used almost my full toolbox with Xander today: allowed a nap, gave a treat, kept things light with silly jokes, made an outdoor snack time, skipped some grammar lessons that were too easy, cut a Math lesson into a tiny section that he had to do today, fed him again, listened sympathetically, and made a threat.

But I love what we have done.

He's practiced writing numbers, which he could always use.

He's practiced spelling and proofreading.

He's been outdoors.

He's had Sustained Silent Reading Time.

He and I have had another heart-to-heart talk about feeling free to talk to a trusted adult if he ever feels icky about something. (Along the lines of private parts and privacy.)

We have talked some more about common nouns and proper nouns, specifically common noun places like the kitchen, dining room, store, and zoo and proper noun full names of family members.

We've read aloud two chapters of Charlotte Mason's Elementary Geography, looked at maps of the world and the United States, read about The Knights of the Golden Horseshoe in This Country of Ours, read about the Peloponnesian Wars in A Child's History of the World, looked at Ed Emberley's Great Thumbprint Drawing Book, and listened to songs composed by Johann Sebastian Bach as well as renditions of Ave Maria.

He has made his own thumbprint drawing creation: a knight.

He has perfectly recited the poem "The Caterpillar" and practiced memorizing the poem "Work."

Nick and I have done a lot, too, in spite of his case of screaming-crying earlier when he would have been well served to take a nap.

He has practiced folding paper and identifying shapes. He has traced many differently shaped lines, including curvy and zigzaggy ones. He has drawn drawings (of hot lava and men who are "not crying") and painted two pictures of Johann Sebastian Bach's face with watercolors.

He and I have recited the short-vowel sounds poem from The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading.

And he is now learning to play Xander's Leapster with the game Pet Pals.

Good news! We set an end date for watching Imaginext videos on Youtube. Erik and I first enforced specific TV/computer times during the day and then said July 4th would be the last day Imaginext videos would be allowed. So we have not had any more Imaginext videos since then!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Saturday Success Story? Or Did I Not Follow Through on Friday?

Random photo to start the post
Did I get my three Follow Through Friday tasks done?

Short answer: no.

Long answer: to follow.

1. Finish The Homemaking Cottage articles.

Actually, yes, I did do this. Just now. Three of them were posted by yesterday, the due date. Two more were posted this morning, after Erik did me an enormous favor and let me sleep in.

2. Return library books.

Yes. I went to the library by myself! I like doing that. Came back with way too many books for myself, but also some good ones for the kids. We shall see if I can finish my big stack of books before my renewal limit is reached. (I am with you, Jean!)

3. Clean.

I cleaned the guinea pig cage. Hurray! I did not clean anything else. Moreover, I made hot dogs and french fries and strawberry slices for dinner. Pretty lazy, right?

On the other hand, Erik did all the dishes and gave the kids baths and clipped their nails and put them to bed.

What did I do, you ask?

I went running! I'm actually quite proud of myself. It was over 95 degrees but it was evening time. I didn't think it would be a big deal but it kind of was. I brought a little bottle of water with me. It turns out I wasn't that thirsty (though I did really wish for chapstick) but I wanted water poured over my head. That really helped. I talked myself into continuing for 50 minutes. At first, I was all inspirational inside my head. Then it degenerated into, "Just don't let this carload of people see you stopping. Okay, good, now don't let this car see you stop. Now this one. Now this one. Okay, stop and stretch. I won't judge you."

So today, after I get out of my pajamas, I will quick-clean things around the house for an hour or so, meet friends at a splash park, get home and cook a big pan of lasagna, and have friends over for dinner. Follow Through Saturday? Perhaps.

(I think the real hero of this duo of posts is Erik, don't you?)

Friday, July 5, 2013

Follow Through Friday With SoNotOrganized.com

Hi, Jean!

I am going to link up with Jean at SoNotOrganized.com for her Follow Through Friday. Each Friday she's done this, I had projects I needed to get done, but it was like Emergency Go Time and not Post a Blog Post Time those Fridays.

Today, I think I have time to post and work. And laze around. Because it's the 5th of July. We're tired.

One of the "emergency" things that got done was booking a place for our vow renewals! I mentioned this on Facebook but not on this blog: Erik and Jeremy planned for a year to ask me and Leslie if we would renew vows with them! Because we had a double wedding ceremony back nine years ago, we are also going to have a double vow renewal. Too cute for words, right? Or is it Too Awesome for words??!! To get back on track, we are doing this on a pontoon boat during the week they are visiting us before they move far away. *tear* It will be us couples and our four darling kids.

So now, to follow through on some things...

1. I need to write and upload four more articles for The Homemaking Cottage today.

2. Just like Jean, I need to go to the library or renew all our books and DVDs.

3. Some cleaning should really get done. We are having neighbors over for dinner tomorrow night after a busy day. "Some cleaning" is too vague, right? Hmmm. I will clean the guinea pig's cage and vacuum all the floors. If I find the energy, I will also clean the master bathroom. Cleaning the hall bathroom will have to wait until tomorrow. As it should. We have two little boys here.

This was after I cleaned it many months ago - yes, I have cleaned it again since then... I'm sure.


We went to fireworks last night. The last time we did that as a family, Xander was a baby, I think. One year, when he was four, we did some fireworks on our driveway. Not quite the same.

I went through a cycle with family holidays that I am sure is common to lots of other people. As a kid, I cherished and enjoyed them. As a 10- to 12-year-old, I started to feel the joy of those experiences was dimming a bit. As a teenager, I realized these events could be boring.

Holidays remained pretty boring for me until I had kids. Now I get to experience the joy of my little kids vicariously. It is awesome!

Last night, when the fireworks began, Xander shouted with almost every display, "It's not over yet! It's not over yet!"

And Nick jumped and ran around in circles in front of our place because he was that excited.

It was a whole new world opened up to them.

Here are some pictures, mainly of the kids climbing up into the city fire truck:

After this, he proceeded to jump from the seat down to the ground instead of using the steps. My reflexes are lightning quick thanks to these boys, so I caught him.

Walking back to our car...only took 25 or 30 minutes to get home once we got in the car (we live 2.5 miles away from the park). It was worth it. Next year, Austin fireworks? *shudder*

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Real Homeschool Day in Our House

This is how one real homeschool day in our house went:

I actually got up at my 6:30 alarm. Bonus! Nick did not get up until 7:00, which is pretty good, except I hadn't been able to get my shower in yet. Quick shower, briefly interrupted by Nick as usual, but otherwise on schedule. ("I need my privacy right now," is my mantra these days.)

I got out our warm-up board and magazine box because it was Magazine Monday.

Nick was allowed to eat breakfast early (leftover coffee cake and fruit) while I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to him. He is actually listening to whole chapters sometimes. I read the same book to Xander around the same age, but Nick seems sooooooo much younger at all the same ages than Xander did. Skewed mommy-perspective.

Nick shared his breakfast very nicely with me. He read magazines.

I opened the boys' bedroom door and told Xander it was time to get up and do Morning Cards. I turned on a lamp.

Xander groaned, got up to go to the bathroom, turned off the lamp, and went back to bed. Nick and I did his Morning Cards and my morning chores.

Nick got to play for a good while. Xander was still not up.

Finally, we got Xander up. He made himself yogurt with cherries, then sat on the couch to read one of the magazines I had gotten out.

Nick and I did learning time together. This was at 10:00. I reviewed left and right with him, using all kinds of body parts. He does not get it right 100% of the time, so I left our first lesson at that. (If he had seemed to really get left and right, I was going to do a quick and easy math lesson with him that required using left and right hands.) We did some tracing in his Kumon My First Book of Tracing. That went so much better than it ever has before, but we stopped as soon as Nick's attention wandered. At this point, we tried the very first lesson in The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. It was a job of work. According to Nick, he does want to learn to read now the way that Xander can. If he decides to sit with me and obey the instructions, we will continue. If it is still hard after a week, I will set aside the book for a while. Slow and Steady Get Me Ready is a gentler introduction to learning academic skills, I think, and he likes those activities.

Update: We did Lesson 2 of The Ordinary Parent's Guide together today and it went very well.

It was time for Nick to have independent playtime. He chose Sandy's room to play in.

Xander was still in his pajamas but had started playing toys in his room. I gave him five minutes until school time.

When I got him out to the dining room, I had to spend a minute or so addressing his resistant attitude, but after that everything went well. I am excited about that, considering we started formal spelling and grammar curricula today. We worked on spelling for 15 minutes and grammar for 20 minutes, which included beginning to memorize a new poem. I read history books to him for 30 minutes (A Child's History of the World and This Country of Ours). He cut out images that pertained to the world history we learned and pasted them on their own index cards. I wrote captions for the pictures and hung them on our history timeline.

Then it was lunch. I have to admit, the kids had complained about hunger during school time and I had made them plates of sandwiches and cherries. Nick had come out of independent playtime after only 15 minutes or so. But they were both cheerful and cooperative and everything worked out well. (Except for the duration of the independent playtime. You can't have it all.) I heated up some chicken that we all ate. The kids cleared their places and I did dishes. Xander had to get dressed and brush his teeth before I would allow him to come to the mailbox with me.

We all went to the mailbox together. Xander received an issue of Appleseed today (thanks, Grandma Lucy!) so he went to work on that. I decreed an early Sustained Silent Reading time. Nick and I looked at our own books on my bed.

Then it was time to make a batch of cookies because we were all still hungry. A little blogging for me, a little playing for the kids.

I explained our current version of Rest Time to them (a new concept starting today). I said they could have stuffed animals, books, and even a few toys on their beds for a rest time. They could even talk to each other, I said, if it was quiet. I showed them the time on their clock when rest time would end. They were excited about it! Xander said he would not need toys on his bed even if he decided to play because he could use his imagination. From the sounds of it, this is turning into sibling playtime, but it is relatively quiet and I am very happy.

The other times I have enforced a rest time, they have ended quickly and have been quite a bit of work for me. This one is going fabulously well. I went in to check something Nick wanted me to see, and Xander said, "Mom, can we have extra rest time if we want that?" I nicely told him I would check our schedule.

This brought us to about 3:00 p.m. The kids played for a long time together while I read a bit. Between 4 and 5:00, I started making breaded pork chops, macaroni 'n cheese, and green beans. People helped me set the table. We had a family dinner.

I went running while Erik did the first phase of getting ready for bed. He did a lot of the rest of the phases, too. When the kids were in bed with lights out, Erik and I watched Under the Dome together. (Lame show, but it was fun to watch as a couple.) And that ends the homeschool day.

School Work

Nick asked me what every shape was that he cut out

Finally cutting in a way that works for him!

Tracing, shape, coloring, cutting exercise

Nick and I have done the first two lessons in The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading!

Xander really likes Spelling Workout B so far

Monday, July 1, 2013

VocabularySpellingCity.com Free Premium Trials - for a Year!

We are starting up school again this month, then August off, then 2nd grade beginning September. The goal for this month is to finish up all the 1st grade work I wanted to do. We will have 4th of July off and a couple of weeks for cousins to come visit and for us to go to Florida with them to stay with Grandma.

I have a few other goals this month. I am introducing more formal spelling and grammar, the same format we will use for 2nd grade. I am also starting Right Start Math with Xander. It has lots of manipulatives and few worksheets. My Singapore Math book and workbook seemed great, but Xander did not enjoy them. He has a mind for grasping math quickly, and I thought if he is dreading math, then let's try a different approach. Right Start uses the same approach as Singapore but with more manipulatives and games, less workbook work, and a special abacus to help group numbers rather than relying on counting.

We started Spelling Workout Level B today. I set a timer for 15 minutes. Xander was resistant at first, but was soon laughing as we went through the different activities. He was doing his first crossword puzzle ever, with the word list for this lesson, when the timer went off. That was not good news to him. He wanted to finish the puzzle before stopping. !!!!!!! This is my son who supposedly doesn't like to write and doesn't like formal instruction such as what one might use for spelling.

We also did a few lessons in First Language Lessons and that went well, too. I had tried this book with him a couple years ago and it was a flop. He seems more mature or simply more able to handle it this year. The lessons are going to be easy for him, but they add a few more useful bits of knowledge to what he already knows, providing a better base of knowledge for his future education.

I had Nick sit down with me to do a lesson in The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. I had used quite a bit of this (long) book with Xander when he was about four years old. He did not like it. It was hard to get him to sit down long enough to do a lesson. I see that Nick is the same way right now. A good solution would be to wait until he is five, but when I asked him if he wanted to learn to read like Xander, he said yes. In that case, I told him, he had to sit down with me and do the lesson. It was challenging to get him to repeat after me when he needed to do that. He loves to spout off nonsense words instead. I had to make him do it on the threat of taking away Imaginext toys. If he continues to resist a lot this week, I will put away the book for a while. I would rather he do more of Slow and Steady Get Me Ready, which is at his level, than rush the reading if he resists.

So anywho, after I did that review for Time4Learning I was contacted by the company with an offer to get a free premium trial for VocabularySpellingCity.com. In fact, after I post an honest review, I can get the free trial for a full year! I described above what we are doing for spelling, but here's where VocabularySpellingCity.com can fit in: You can make your own word lists, so I could put in the word lists from Spelling Workout Level B. Then you can have your child play games on the site using those word lists. If Xander ever gets resistant to the Spelling Workout activities, we can take a break by playing computer games with the same word lists.

Following is the disclosure from VocabularySpellingCity.com:

I've been given a Premium Membership to VocabularySpellingCity.com for a candid, personal, online review.

VocabularySpellingCity helps students study word lists using 25 different learning activities such as UnscrambleHangmanWordFind, andCrossword Puzzle. Parents can create their own spelling lists, find published lists already available on the site, or use any of dozens of free teaching resources on topics such as Multiple Meaning Words and Possessive Nouns . Be sure to come back in three weeks to read about my experience.

There might be more free memberships available for bloggers. If you're interested, find out how you can review VocabularySpellingCity.com."