Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sandy's Adventures to the Castle

I tried again to get down one of Nick's stories.

He said, "I want to read a story about Sandy."

I said, "Okay," and got out my notebook. This is what I caught of it. The ellipses are where I didn't catch things.

"It's called, Sandy's Adventures to the Castle.

"Sometime, Sandy heard a song.


"Sandy walked to the castle, the drawbridge opened, and Sandy said, 'Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!' The guinea pigs marched to the castle to attack.


"But there was shooting cannons." [sounds of shooting noises and wheeks]

"Koa said, 'The new pyramids of the castle, we save this castle for Xander's attack of the castle.


"It's the newest apartment of the castle."

[Xander interrupts with, "Aw! I hate being a bad guy!"]

"Xander's going to be a good guy if Nick is going to be a bad guy."

[Xander: "Is Nick going to be a bad guy?"
Nick: "Yes."
Xander: "Yay! I'm a good guy!"
Xander again: "I want to see the pictures."
They both go to look at the Imaginext toys which are set up for a good ol' castle battle.]

"The castle defended Koa and Cadbury...

"The sea was made out of ice...then the pyramids dirt.


Later, there was a wheeking song that the guinea pigs sang. There was mention of guinea pigs liking or not liking hamsters. Xander joined in on the song later. Then there was more story I gave up on catching. Songs were interspersed.

I missed more than I got down. These treasures are ephemeral.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


random picture of some heart-shaped baked doughnuts we made
Nick said yesterday that his favorite day would be to go to Egypt. He wants to see the Sphinx.

Both kids are sick. Nick's had a low-grade fever for three days. Xander started with one today. They've been acting pretty chipper once I give them children's Advil, though. When I let them lounge around and watch TV and stuff like that, they get bored and whiny. When I let them do their chores as normal, with the promise of incentives, they are cheerful and hardworking. So chores it is. With me trying to be more patient than usual in deference to their illness, whatever it is.

I've started a new chore system using popsicle sticks. We all have an In pouch and an Out pouch for daily chores. I've written almost all of our household chores on popsicle sticks. I get out the sticks for the chores we need to do each day, and then the kids get to pick from those chores. Nick must do Morning Cards, Evening Cards, and two other easy chores each day. Xander must do Morning Cards, Evening Cards, and four other easy chores or two other hard chores each day. I help them as much as they need it.

In this way, Xander has begun to learn a lot about how to do the laundry. He's chosen "do a load of laundry" for the last three days. I wasn't planning to teach him this young, but I'm taking advantage of his choice.

Erik had him helping with the dinner dishes last night. There is just a lot of work going on around here, and I love it! (By the way, he didn't get anything out of doing the dishes but a chance to work with Dad.)

I think part of the motivation is the new, colorful chore system. Part of it is that I said we would stop giving them allowance but would start paying them for each chore they completed during the week. This is a controversial move. My rationale is this: Kids who live on farms generally learn all about hard work and responsibility in a natural way. They simply have to do a lot of work to help the family get everything done at the time it must be done. Because we don't live on a farm, I set up a more artificial system to give everyone plenty of responsibility in getting our total family work done. I figure paying them on the basis of work done is another way to show that the amount and quality of work you do makes a difference. They get a small bonus at the end of the week if they completed every single chore every day, to reward consistency.

(The major portion of this idea comes from "The Jeppson Plan" in A Thomas Jefferson Education Home Companion.)

They also get to earn their screen time this way. Screen time takes place at a designated time each day for each of them. But they only get as many minutes as they earned through chores and lessons and service or kindness to others. (Thanks to a couple of my friends for this idea!)

There are still things they have to do without earning incentives, but they don't complain about these things. Clearing their place at the table and cleaning up after themselves are part of this type of work.

In a year or so, I plan to ratchet up Xander's earnings per chore so that he ends up earning enough to pay for friends' birthday gifts, his own clothing, extra educational materials beyond our family budget, and any treats or toys he wants. Eventually, he will have to pay for any expenses associated with a car of his own and save up for college tuition. Those things will probably require him to get a job outside the family.

I am going to be keeping in mind the danger of supplying too much external motivation to the point that it diminishes their internal motivation. My kids have enormous internal motivation to learn, though they will resist activities that seem boring or hard to them. They also have internal motivation to be helpful. The problem is, this comes with a lot of whining and arguing and not a lot of getting household work or even hygiene work done. With this new system, they are working hard and getting their hygiene chores done easily and cheerfully.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Great Exercise for Changing Negative Connotations to Positive Ones

Take a look at this beautiful guest post at Chocolate on my Cranium: Stubborn or Determined? Defining Your Child's Attributes.

I made a list of descriptive attributes for each of my children and, for negative-sounding adjectives, came up with synonyms that had positive connotations. One side of my list now had the negative connotation and the other side had the positive connotation. Some of the adjectives I habitually use to describe my children were already positive, so I just repeated them.

Here is the positive side of the list for Xander:


Here is the positive side of the list for Nick:


This was a powerful exercise and I recommend it to any parent.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

August Break

I was trying to convince myself to make the rest of August our break from school.

"Quit pushing," I told myself.

This was good advice.

"Just do breakfast, Morning Cards, chores, lunch, dinner, taking care of Sandy, and free time," I told myself.

Some days that would be good advice.

Today, this happened:

I remembered to read a story from a children's Bible stories book while the kids ate breakfast. Xander wanted me to read more.

I made a picture of Thomas Jefferson Education, shown as a planet core with levels going outward. I labeled each phase and put its main lessons around the circle showing the appropriate level. On the back, I drew seven large old-fashioned key images and wrote the seven keys of learning in them. Xander asked what I was doing, so I told him I was drawing a model of Thomas Jefferson Education. Nick began talking about George Washington. From his watching of Carmen Sandiego, he knew that both Thomas Jefferson and George Washington are on Mount Rushmore. Xander added that Roosevelt and Lincoln were, too. I looked in our new Encyclopedia of the Presidents and Their Times so I could tell them Thomas Jefferson was the third president of the United States.

Though I felt I should know this off the top of my head, it was a good opportunity to show Xander that I was looking up information in an encyclopedia. This conversation prompted Nick to go get the Make Your Own President book we own.

Nick wanted me to help and watch while he "made his own president" from our Make Your Own President mix-up-pictures book. He had George Washington's eyes up front and wanted me to help him find George Washington's nose. The way to tell which president is on each strip is to read the quote and name on the back side of the strip. I helped him find the name that started with a G and showed him that it said George Washington. We worked with the book for a while longer and identified a few presidents.

Nick asked me where those robots were that we got from a Robots board game at a garage sale. I told him they were really flimsy and were all broken and thrown away. He got very upset. I got out the basket of figures I keep in our school-time cabinet and started playing with them. Eventually, he got interested and began playing with them too.

Xander came out of his room and told me he was getting bored with playing. I asked if he thought he was ready to play with the toys in the baskets that were up higher in our school-time cabinet. He said yes. These are all math toys and manipulatives from the RightStart math program. He began to make shapes on the geoboard and tell time on the telling-time clock.

Nick got interested in what he was doing and played with the abacus. Then he made some times on the telling-time clock and asked me what they were.

Now the kids are making shapes together on the geoboard.

It was not a day to ignore school time, apparently.

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Thought on Perfection

For 20 or 30 years, I have been searching for perfection in an imperfect world. It may not have looked like that was what I was doing from the outside, but on the inside I was getting more and more disillusioned and discontented. It has taken me a lifetime so far to learn that imperfection is fine.

Examples of imperfect things: human beings, relationships, nights of sleep, children's behavior, parents, systems, big events, science experiments in progress...

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Vacation Pictures!

Grandma's house

beach time

game time

party time

bay time

bath time 

fishing and village history museum

vacations are tiring

dolphin tank

sea turtle

setting up the telescope

running around waiting to stargaze

it always comes down to this

Friday, August 9, 2013

From Xander: The Empire of Toys

The Empire of Toys

This is Xander's guest post today.