Saturday, December 31, 2005

Family Time

Today is New Year's Eve and the Eve of the Feast of the Holy Family. The kids watched Felicity again this morning. It is the essence of a family movie. I can always pick out a good movie because my children will imitate the characters. Grace has been curtsying and having tea parties, Lou named all her horses Penny and Patriot, and I even caught Lee tip his hat and bow when talking with Grace. We all took a chance at playing darts; Lee got an electronic dart board from Grandma for Christmas. Dad and Lou played horses and I practiced the piano.

Our plans for today include: make homemade cocoa brownies, snowmobile, pack up snow clothes and equipment and head over to Jeremy and Dawn's for a New Year's get together. Together we have eight children who play together marvelously. It's a dream come true for parents.

Reading over this entry sounds to good to be true, but it isn't. I recently read an article in our local newspaper; this woman in her 60's was reminiscing about Christmas of 1968. It was a hard year, yet simple in so many ways. Then she forwarded and talked of this year's Christmas and the craziness of it all. The writer asked her if she wished Christmas was as simple as in 1968 and her response was, "No, sometimes you don't realize that the good times are the ones you're in right now." That comment had such an impact that I actually saved the article and have read that quote everyday since it was published on December 23.

That quote sums up how I feel today. I am so blessed on this Eve of the Feast of the Holy Family to be given my family to care for and to love.

Friday, December 30, 2005

What Did You Say?

Lou, my 4 1/2 year old dancer, has recently picked up a phrase from somewhere. Her response to most anything I tell her is, "that's totally wicked". Not the most polite, but none the less it sounds cute coming from her.

Menu Planning

Lately there has been a lot of discussion at Thrifty Homeschooler about menu planning. I, too, have tried different "pre-packaged" plans and found that none of them are quite what my family likes. I've always planned menus weekly or bi-weekly shopping accordingly. However, constantly making out menu plans was time consuming and sometimes daunting because everyone likes to eat different things. Often I felt that I couldn't please anyone no matter what I served for dinner. A friend of mine suggested making out a season of menus. Here's how it works. Print out 12 blank monthly calendars and staple together. Make a list of your family's favorite main course meals; the one's you can prepare blindfolded. Now label the first calendar with January. Place your family's favorite winter meals on the calendar using pen. Then in pencil fill in the rest of the blanks with new recipes to try. Use pencil so that if they aren't winners you can erase and try something new again next year. During 2005 I filled in each month according to the season. More chili in the winter, more grilled hamburgers in the summer months. I don't get too concerned if what's marked for the 2nd Wednesday of January doesn't get made on the 2nd Wednesday of January. This is just a guide so that grocery shopping is made easier and I don't have to think as hard about dinner. Now it's a new year and all I have to do is turn back to January's menu and go shopping.

If your family likes tacos here a a couple of suggestions:

Taco Meat Mixture
2 T. chili powder
1 t. salt
1/2 t. cumin
1 clove garlic, crushed or 1/2 t. garlic powder

Mix together and use instead of the prepackaged taco seasoning. Brown 1 lb. ground meat, 1 small chopped onion, drain and add 3/4 c. water with the above seasoning mixture. Boil, then simmer for 10 minutes until slightly thickened.

Taco Soup
1 lb. browned ground meat
1 qt. tomato juice
1 can diced tomatoes and juice
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 can Mexican or chili beans and liquid
1 recipe of above taco seasoning mixture

Simmer until warmed through. Place a small handfull of corn chips in bowl, top with soup, dollop of sour cream and sprinkling of shredded cheddar cheese. Yummy and fast! Tastes even better the next day for lunch.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

American Girl Doll Shines Again

This morning, before school, the kids started watching Felicity: An American Girl Adventure. I had planned on using the 45 minutes to blog, dust and read. While trying to dust the entertainment center I got sucked into the movie. It is fantastic, so sweet and wholesome. The young girls curtsy; the young boys and men bow. They are so polite to one another. I hope some of it wears off on my youngens'. When Lee finishes up his school we will have lunch and all curl up to finish the movie. The girls are passing the time by playing horses with their American Girl Dolls. What a storybook day.

Place Value Game

Today's subject of the day involved place value. First we looked at numbers on Lee's newly discovered (had been hiding on the bookshelf) tape measure. We stretched it out to see single, double and triple digit numbers. We read The Case of the Missing Birthday Party, it's an ok introduction to place value, but not overly exciting. The best part was that it suggested a game to play. Here's what you do. Cut 10 small slips of paper; on each write a number from 0-9. Place in small paper bag. Each player makes 3 squares, horizontally on a piece of paper. The first player draws a number slip from the bag and chooses which square to write the number in. The object is to create the largest number. Place the slip back into the bag and continue with each player until all three squares are filled in. Then read the number. Who has the largest number? They're the winner! Tomorrow we'll play again with 4 boxes to makes number into the thousands. This is a fast paced game and easy to play. We all enjoyed this since their is equal amounts of chance and skill.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Mission: Organization

I tend to be mostly organized. I write To Do Lists, one for "Today" and one for "Longterm". I like my house to be orderly, although with 4 kids 8 and younger it's not always as orderly as I would like. With that said, I do like a lived in feel. Our fridge is plastered with artwork around the gigantic calendar of events. My home is decorated with basically non-breakables and we have no coffee table taking up valuable floor space. I purposely leave open space so that cartwheels, somersaults, ballet and tap dance can be practiced in the living room. And piles of books are piled everywhere.

This is the week for a deep cleaning and organization mission again. This stemmed from moving my mom to yet a third apartment in 3 years. She has so much stuff that needed to be moved into a one bedroom apartment that there was hardly enough room for her to walk. DH and I came home and decided that we don't want to own anything. DH even stripped off his dirty clothes and said "I'm giving up wearing clothes, I don't want anything." Well, he decided to keep his clothing, but we have both been cleaning out desk drawers, file folders, closets, the laundry room and anything else that looks like it is overfull. We've found so much to get rid of.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

"For unto you a child is born...." Yes, it's 9:16am on Christmas Day and I am posting a message. We've been up since 5:00am and by the time it was getting light around 7:00am the craziness of stocking and gift opening was over. It was a special year; the first time the kids had presents for us that were truly from them. Grace got jelly beans for dad and chocolate mint patties for me. Lee colored and matted two wild animal pictures and then wrote a personal message on the back of each: "I hope my dad shoots a big buck like the one on this picture." He also made me a certificate for one backrub including a hug and kiss. We've all had too much candy, mini peanut butter cups, crunch bells, candy canes, mint kit kats (only found at Target and they're awesome). I've already ordered clearance Christmas wrap from Current Catalog for next year. I do this every year. It's great, I don't have to struggle with the after Christmas crowds and come next November when I start thinking of wrapping gifts everything is in the wrapping tote and ready to go. Grace is relaxing in her new bathrobe and fuzzy socks, Lee is driving his tractors around, Lou is wearing her new horse outfit and playing with Felicity and horses, Ray (Jack, Jack) is terrorizing everyone's new toys. He was playing with his remote control car for a while until he discovered Lee's hammer.

Just for my record, we went to church last night at 6:30pm. It was a nice service, although I stood in the back for most of the time. A front page article in our newspaper yesterday noted the decline in the midnight mass. In our deanery we have 10 parishes and only one has a true midnight mass. They sighted the decline in attendance being the main reason for doing away with the midnight mass. What do you do? Do you keep the kids up late? Do you get up early in the morning?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Christmas Preparations and School

Christmas is just 4 days away and our house is bustling with activity. The kids did their schoolwork today as well as lots more learning.

Math - measured ingredients for cheesy ham soup and cranberry bread, counted out dozens of cookies, estimated and then cut wrapping paper for wrapping presents

Reading - read the recipe directions, read the messages on the to/from tags

Writing - wrote Thank You notes for Christmas presents already received, wrote a letter to Jesus telling what they want for Christmas and thanking him for a good year

Art - made creative bows for their wrapped presents, made a morning star ornament to hang above our door, played Christmas songs on violin, guitar and piano

It's so easy to incorporate learning into everyday life, yet some days I fret because we don't get all of the planned schoolwork finished and then when DH reminds me of all that was done I am reminded that real learning comes from living a full life.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Christmas is Coming

We put up the Christmas tree today. I've always loved to listen to Christmas music while decorating the tree. This year I realized that I need new Christmas tunes. I'm still listening to the same CD's from college and this year they're just not the type of music I was yearning for. Although my favorite is still my favorite, The Christmas Harp. There is nothing more angelic than listening to Christmas carols played on harp strings. Beautiful!

We did get school done this morning as well. Grace is reading from the Little House First Chapter Books. She reads the stories to me everyday. She has become quite a reader, but still needs to work on the tion, tian, sion endings, for example, confusion. She's in second grade and I would imagine that this is normal progress. Lee finished up his rhyme book a couple of weeks ago and has progressed to a free workbook I received from Starfall.com. He likes the pages; I think they are worthless. What to do? Lee is working on counting change. He has a quick and sharp mind. Lou played Cinderella most of the morning, while Ray played with Duplos, looked at books and rifled through the Christmas boxes (what a mess).

This last weekend we went to my husband's sisters homes for our Christmas gathering and gift exchange. Our extended family doesn't exchange gifts with everyone, however with 4 kids with godparents and godchildren of our own, most everyone ends up with some sort of present. We had so much fun sharing stories, laughing, eating, playing with cousins and attending a different church. We attended St. Patrick Parish in Cottage Grove, WI. The alpha and omega of the sermon: "New York City lawyer states that after thorough search, 'God cannot be found', Father states after many scripture references, that God can be found in each and every person. It was a fun, funny and very uplifting sermon.

List of Christmas gifts received
*Grace - assorted bubble baths, Stablemate horse, Girls Who Looked Under Rocks, American Girl tea time dress and winter cloak
*Lee - Case excavator, Matchbox Army assortment
*Lou - Cinderella dress up set, Buckaroo game, Fashion Polly sleigh and horse set
*Ray - Bath toys, rubber push car
*Dad - Gun Digest 2006, Sharpie markers
*Mom - beading supplies, scrapbooking supplies

Friday, December 16, 2005

Kids Don't Miss a Beat

Lately we've had some discussions around the house about Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas. If you listen to Relevant Radio (Catholic Talk Radio) you will understand where all this is stemming from. Anyway, Lee was wrapping a couple of Christmas, oh I mean Holiday presents for Grandma. Somehow Ray, who is now 17 months, got ahold of the to/from labels and the pen from off the table. When Lee tracked him down he noticed that Ray had scribbled on some of the labels and then commented in his witty way, "Well at least he scribbled on the one that says 'Happy Holidays'. Sometimes I feel as if I'm talking to the wall, even when I have one hand on his shoulder and am making direct eye contact, then he makes a comment like this. I guess he is paying attention to what goes on around here. Kids just don't miss a beat.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Baking is Put on Hold

I am so disappointed. Ray is sleeping, Lou is watching a video and Grace and Lee are building snow forts and tunnels. So far it sounds great, right? Well, I want to do some Christmas cookie baking and I'm out of flour, cocoa and powdered sugar. How did this happen? I'm usually so prepared for December baking by stocking up in October and November. This year it just got away from me. I desperately need to go grocery shopping. We had been building up an excess of open boxes of stuff: crackers, cereal, pretzels. So I decided that I wasn't going to the store until everything was used up. Well, this is what I get, punished by my own rule. So I'll balance the checkbook instead. Happy baking!!

Mad Libs: My Favorite Word Game

We pulled out the Mad Libs today. We have the Christmas Fun edition. Mad Libs is a word game. Each page has a story with some words removed. They are labeled noun, verb, number, adjective, etc. Then one person goes around the table asking each person for the appropriate type of word. When all the blanks have been filled in, the reader reads the story. Here are some of our favorite lines from this mornings Mad Libs.

-And Sam brought lots of tacos to hang on the tree.
-Last year Nick had a grumpy party.
-Once that bat is up, you know that the green season has officially started.
-Of course, you can always decorate your turkey fan with vases or helicopters.

Lots of laughs during this project and it reinforces or introduces children to the parts of speech. These can be bought at a book store for $3.99. Each book contains about 25 different stories.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Ruined Desserts

Last week I tempted you with descriptions of all the yummy desserts I made for my grandma's birthday party. There was a little (well big) mishap just before dessert on Friday night. My Uncle John opened a cupboard door; a glass tumbler came crashing down and shards of glass were sprayed everywhere including on the pumpkin pie and moist chocolate cake. The turtle brownies were covered and so were not ruined. I'm glad no one was seriously hurt, but so sad that all my work was fruitless.

Monday, Monday

Monday Home Blessing this morning. I still have to dust all the flat surfaces and do my 15 minute zone cleaning. Check out Flylady.net for more information on zone cleaning and the Monday Home Blessing. Last week I cleaned the craft/school supply closet. What a blessing that has been. The kids have a new found love of art. They have been busily drawing pictures and making tree ornaments. The board games have added appeal, too, now that they are organized and all the titles can be seen when the door is opened. Simple Pleasures!

Rejoice! We are to prepare for the coming of the Christ child.

Friday, December 9, 2005

Grandma is 73 Today

Tonight we'll be heading to my uncle's for a birthday celebration for grandma. She's a very special lady to me, always their when I need advice on what temperature to bake homemade bread or how much flour to use when making gravy. I volunteered to bring the cake, but couldn't decide what one to make, so I decided to make three different things. Turtle Brownies (new recipe found on the back of the new caramel/chocolate swirel chips), Moist Chocolate Cake (an old standby found in Quick Cooking many years ago, made with brewed coffee and buttermilk.....oh it's delicious), and Pumpkin Pie (traditional). The house is filled with the aroma of chocolate and pumpkin. What a great way to end the week.

Even with all the baking we did manage to get in some school this morning. Grace and I played games from Happy Phonics, Lee read to me from Bob Books Level C and Lou and Ray played. Both Grace and Lee played math computer games, which is their Friday treat.

Simple Pleasures

Last evening the kids stayed with some friends while DH and I went to Tony Roma's for ribs. We celebrated our 9 year anniversary on Wednesday; the vigil mass for the Immaculate Conception was Wednesday so we planned our night out for Thursday. It was great to shop at Lowe's and eat ribs without any distractions. What a simple pleasure. Colleen has a gum drop tree that she fills with red and green spice drops during the Christmas season. Lee walked into their kitchen and his eyes just lit up when he saw the shiny silver tree adorned with red and green sugar covered candy. Colleen said that he marveled at the tree all night. What a simple pleasure of the Christmas season. Of course when we got back all the gum drops had been eaten, good thing we picked up another bag at Fleet Farm.

Thursday, December 8, 2005

Lots of Limericks

We wrapped up our study of the War of 1812 yesterday. Dolly Madison was a winner all the way around. We pulled out a poster of the presidents. Grace and Lee identified James Madison as the fourth president and Dolly's husband. We read the names of all the presidents and noted that one of them was named Warren (DH's name). They thought that to be cool. Today we started off by reading from the book Lots of Limericks; very funny and a good way to spark an interest in writing some of our own.

Emily had a cat
but it's name was a rat
the cat was fun
it stunk as sun
the cat it was a rat.
Written by: Grace-age 8

One day I sat on a chair
But it really was underwear
and it stunk so bad
but it really was dad
and he just didn't care.
Written by: Lee-age 6

My plan, which I have many, is to write a couple of Christmas limericks to include in our Christmas cards this year. If I really do that, I'll post them here when finished.

Thursday, December 1, 2005

Musical Words

This morning as DH and I were listening to Grace practice her violin, DH commented that listening to her play violin is just like listening to her talk. Fast, choppy and slightly out of tune. I had to laugh, because it's so true. She is a fast talker, so fast that sometimes her words are so jumbled together that I have to ask her what language she's speaking. We got to talking about this theory, that people produce music like they do words, and realized that it could actually be proven as a scientific truth. Lee, who plays guitar, plays somewhat slow, methodical, and produces clear sounds. He talks just the same way. DH also commented that I play violin just as I talk also. Concise, clear, and no mistakes. He pointed out that I work hard at getting the kids to talk the same way also. "When I speak to you, your response is 'yes, mom'." Does that sound harsh? Reading it sounds harsh. I hope I don't come across that way.

Here is a link to a http://www.catholicculture.org/lit/prayers/view.cfm?id=16 family Advent ceremony, including prayers and scripture reading. You might add "O Come, O Come Immanuel". Singing a new verse each week leading up to Christmas adds a nice touch to the ceremony.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

War of 1812

When was the War of 1812? Lee was the fastest to answer, "In 1812!" We are still studying this time period. We read Abigail's Drum, a story about two sisters who used their fife and drum playing to scare away a British ship. We read two versions of this story which is based on a true story. Today we started reading Dolly Madison, from the Discovery Biographies series. I'm planning on checking out a couple for Grace to read. They are at her reading level and are high interest. We started today and stopped after reading 3 chapters, even though they were begging for more. Better to have them looking forward to tomorrow, then tired of it today. Lee made a punched tin lantern.

Directions: Rinse out a tin can, fill with water, freeze. On a wooden cutting board, using a hammer and nail, punch (pound) a design into the can. The ice makes it easier so the can won't dent. When done place a candle in bottom of can and enjoy the flickering points of light your child created.

Grace started on a rag rug. She sewed together strips of fabric and braided them together until she had a 12 foot braid. Tomorrow I will teach her how to coil the braid and hand sew it together. I don't think it will make a rug, but maybe a trivet or plant pad. We coiled it just to see how it looked and it's amazing how a mish mosh of colors can turn out to be so beautiful. I might make one for myself. (rug size)

We had an early lunch and now everyone is back at school. Grace is reading and Lee is working on his journal. Lou is playing dress up; she's Dolly Madison curtsying all the time. Ray is playing with puzzle pieces and duplos.

Advent Arrives

In anticipation of advent arriving, I pulled out the advent wreath and two nativity sets last Wednesday. During our family formation time we spruced up the wreath and blessed it. On Sunday evening we had our first advent service, meaning we did a short reading, prayer and blessing to the family. I was a little disappointed in Lee and Lou's behavior. I guess it can only get better. They seemed to think that this was a big joke, which did not set well with me. Well, here we are not even a week after putting out the nativities and one shepherd is broken from the breakable set and baby Jesus is missing from the child safe set. I hope that's not a sign. I believe I've just forgotten what it's like to have a toddler "investigating" the new decor. That same toddler swiped my real gold earrings off my dresser and lost them somewhere in the house or even worse may have deposited them in the trash. Time to empty out the toy boxes.
My goal was to have all my Christmas shopping done by Advent, so that I could just enjoy the waiting and preparation of Jesus' coming. I'm almost done; I think only three more things to order. Most of the wrapping is done, as well. I hope your preparations are going well, too.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Vacation Cliff Notes

Last week was spent in Eau Claire, WI. The tradition is to take a post harvest trip. Last year we went to Iowa (Des Moines, Madison County area). The trip must include swimming, hot tubbing, hiking, pizza delivered to the hotel room, museum visits and plenty of cable television. We found Little House on the Prairie and The Dukes of Hazard, both were winners with my kids. It seems that the Dukes was such a cliffhanger as kids, now it's almost cheesy. The trip included everything on the list and a little shopping to boot. We had tons of fun and needed the time away from home to relax. It also seems that home is a great place to be when you are away for awhile.

Today we jumped back into our school schedule. Since it's Monday, we began with the Monday Home Blessing and then at 9:00am began with reciting their memory verse, Matthew 25:35. We read from Pippi Longstocking. We have one chapter left to go. Grace and Lee did their seat work, we read 512 Ant on Sullivan Street and then Grace and Lee tried to double numbers to land directly on 100. Grace finally realized that it would be easier to just work backward from 100 and half everything. Lee headed outside for some cold weather dirt biking, while Grace worked on her scrapbook until she ran out of tape. Lee went to a friends for the afternoon, Grace and Lou watched Postcards from Buster. I am getting off this computer to do some sewing.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

A Lesson in Compassion and Geneology

Tuesday was the Feast of All Saints. I had intended on reading Patrick: The Patron Saint of Ireland. However, I had forgotten during Subject of the Day time and we did a lesson, I had planned, which revolved around the book The Hundred Penny Box. The story is about a black family from Georgia who takes care of their 100 year old aunt. The boy is intrigued by her 100 pennies, each one reminding her of a year of her life. She is suffering from alzheimers or dementia (slightly) and the boy shows her much needed compassion while the mother just tries to hide her away. The story is quite deep for the length of the book. It's really just a long picture book. After reading and discussing the book we dug through our pennies searching for the pennies that tell our life story. Grace and Lee found treasure boxes in their room to store their pennies in and plan on collecting a 2006 penny just as soon as the new year rolls around. I printed off a 5 generation (great great grandparents) family tree chart. We filled in the names and Grace even made calls to great grandma and grandpa B to find out the names of their parents as I wasn't even sure. Lee's printing skills are really shaping up, as he could fit the names on the line without frustration. It turned out to be a great Subject of the Day project.

Back to the Future: Today we finally read the Saint Patrick book. Did you know he drummed all the snakes off the island of Ireland?

Monday, October 31, 2005

Once Is All It Takes

With each of my four children I have used the terms right and left since birth. Time to nurse on the left side. Let's put your left shoe on. Switch your toy to you right hand. Your fork is in your right hand. Step up with your left foot. Let's tie your right shoe. The list goes on and on. My oldest is 8 and she still mixes up her left and right. How is it though, that I can use the word crap once and the three oldest ones pick up on the word, repeat the word, use it in a sentence correctly and never get it out of their mind? The child's mind is an incredible thing.

I'm Hearing Voices

No, it's not ghosts and goblins, but Grace's new found reading voices. Since her reading ability and enjoyment of reading have flourished, she has been adding voices to her reading. I have to admit that sometimes when she reads I find myself drifting off, either to sleep or to thoughts of my to do list. But not today; today she read to me a story about Piggy Wig. Piggy Wig was looking for the king's cook. Well he came upon three different cooks all with different voices. I found myself being pulled into the story, not because of the gripping story line, but because of the sweet, manly, and booming voices of the cooks. She found a way, using her voice, to make the characters come alive. Listening to the earliest of readers is fun because every word is new and the child is so excited to sound out yet one more 3 letter word, but then they transition into a stage of reading that is faster, but choppy and slightly (alright extremely) monotone. Today Grace transitioned into yet another phase of reading. What a complete joy to hear her read a story and not just a set of words.

Presto Change-O, a board game game in the mail today. I ordered it from ebay. The object of the game is to be the first to save $10.00. The game was fun, held their interest and reinforced the counting of money. I can tell already that it was money well spent. Don't you just love ebay?

Go Back to Bed

Saturday night we fell back in time. We put the kids down at 7:00 because they were so tired from their Halloween party sleepover. So actually they went to bed at 6:00 because they got an extra hour of sleep. Well, so much for the extra hour of sleep. Ray was up at 4:00 am and the rest of the gang followed by 5:00am. We ended up going to 7:30 mass on Sunday morning and arrived in plenty of time, which is unusual for us, even at the 9:00am mass. By 7:00 pm on Sunday night everyone was so tired that they almost fell asleep watching Extreme Makeover Home Edition. They fell into bed and were asleep before they said their prayers. Monday morning rolled around way to fast. The gang was up by 5:09am. It's only 7:52am and I am ready for a nap! Do we have to be productive every day? My mind says yes, but my drooping eyelids say no way.

We've been reading Pippi Longstocking. I believe it's a series; it seems we are reading the first because they are introducing Pippi and giving background about why she lives alone. The kids love this book. It's definitely an easy read aloud and even little Lou sits and listens once and a while.

Grace and Lee are already outside checking their traps. It's a drizzly morning, dreary and cold. I can't wait for the hot tub when we go to Eau Claire, one week from today.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Pumpkin Weigh-ins and More

We are still harvesting cranberries. Looks like next Wednesday will be the last day of hauling in the fruit. The nights have been cold so DH has been getting just about 4 hours of sleep; that on top of a heavy work load during the day is taking a toll on him. Everyone around here is a little grumpy.

Even though, we have been doing some fun stuff. Grace finished Robinson Crusoe Reader. Lee worked his way through Bob Books Set B Level 2. Lou is singing the alphabet with only a couple of missing letters and Ray says "thank you" in a 15 month old way (very sing songy). Tuesday we talked about bar graphs, as a way of organizing info, and headed outside to weigh all our pumpkins. We took a clip board, pencil and kitchen scale outside. Cold wind was blowing from the North, but we made it through in about 35 minutes. The kids had fun estimating how much each pumpkin would weigh, and got very good as we progressed through all of them. We ended up weighing about 25 pumpkins from all over our yard. Then graphed them, discussed weight ranges and tallied up the most popular weight and least popular.

Tomorrow, October 28, is the anniversary of the unveiling of the Statue of Liberty in 1884. In honor of that day, today we read Lisa in New York, The Copper Lady, and This Land is Your Land. The three older kids were invited to a sleepover Halloween party, so we spent most of the morning preparing costumes and snacks. We made caramel covered cranberries, a favorite fall treat around here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Most Awesome Thing

Last night I saw the most awesome thing!. Grace, who is eight now, made chocolate chip cookies (dad's recipe) all by herself. They taste terrific. Then after the younger three kids were in bed, she asked if she could stay up to read. I looked over at her relaxing on the loveseat and there she was actually reading, silently to herself (I could see her lips moving), a chapter book. This may not seem like a big deal since she's been reading for quite some time now, but she's never actually read a chapter book silently to herself. She usually picks up short board books or Little Critter books to read to herself. It was such an amazing site. Although she put in all the hard work of learning phonics, sight words and more phonics, the feeling of accomplishment, on my part, was almost overwhelming. Without a single day of real American school, together Grace and I conquered her biggest step in learning so far, the ability to read. I could almost cry, I'm so happy for her.

Today we listened to an addition rock song audio tape. It was fun, simply because it got the kids moving inbetween their math lesson and journal writing. Grace liked it because she could pretend to be a rock star (her life's ambition). Lee thought the rock beat was good, but definitely did not like the math facts being yelled out.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Lots of Reviews

For starters, we've had such a great week. Grace is progressing great through The Robinson Crusoe Reader. I just received the newest catalog from Christian Liberty Press and the reading materials look awesome. If they are anything like Robinson Crusoe they would be worth it. Grace loves the story and I love the way it adds new words and then uses them frequently. Lee is moving right along in the Bob Books. He is reading Jumper and the Clown. Good story which introduces reading the color names. We've been using the Happy Phonics program. It's laid out well and the kids love the games. Still, their favorite is the castle game. We wrapped up our study of the constitution and early presidents last week and now are moving on to studying the life of St. Francis of Assisi. I chose a read aloud, Song of St. Francis (1952), which has a boring cover. It's plain brown with the title only on the spine. They were not thrilled at this choice. Lee chose, Hour of the Olympics(magic tree house), as a read aloud. Now that we are six chapters into each book they like the story of St. Francis much better. That's definitely a pat on my back. This morning we frosted pine cones with peanut butter, rolled them in bird seed and then hung them in the trees for the birds. We also filled the bird feeder; all this was done in honor of St. Francis, patron saint of animals.

Totally Fun Science Project - Super Starch

Mix together 1 cup corn starch and about 1/3 cup water. Try to stir to make a paste. It doesn't mix easily. Play with the mixture and talk about states of matter: solid, liquid, gas and sometimes plasma. The mixture will remain a liquid when still and become a solid when kept in motion. It's hard to explain, but really works and is really fun. My very tactile daughter was kept busy playing with this for almost 2 hours. Eventually it does dry slightly and needs a little water added to continue working well.

Cranberry harvest is in full swing. It's so much work, yet so satisfying to see the crop that dh worked so hard for. The fall colors are at full peak right now and the dark red cranberries against the reds and oranges and the bright blue sky is something awesome.

Sunday, October 9, 2005

The United States Constitution

For the last two weeks we have been studying the time period around the writing of the constitution. We've read an array of books, none of which were spectacular, however they all did the job of informing us about the details. One that stands out is, ...If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution, by Elizabeth Levy. It's taking a while to read, due to the huge amount of info it contains. But, we are enjoying it anyway. Once we were introduced to some of the key members of the Constitutional Convention, we stopped to listen to an audio tape, Lives of the Presidents: Fame, Shame and What the Neighbors Thought. We listened to the story of George Washington. Did you know he was 6 feet, 2 inches, his teeth were made of ivory (not wood) and he died of pneumonia? The biographies make these men's lives come alive.

Grace's Favorites
American Girl Dolls
rollerblading (bought with her birthday money)
dancing like a rockstar
talking on the phone

Lee's Favorites
chipmunk trapping
dirt bike riding
baked chicken
wrestling with dad
playing in the woods

Lou's Favorites
playing with horses
Dora the Explorer
listening to Little Critter books
chips 'n dip after church

Ray's Favorites
pulling and chewing my hair
mandarin oranges
driving toy 4-wheelers across the floor
standing on top of the dining room table
taking baths (not the hair washing part)

Thursday, October 6, 2005

We Are On A Roll!

I can't believe it's been 2 weeks since I've posted. In that time our church women's group hosted the fall deanery meeting. Since I'm the president I spent many minutes (which added up to hours) on the phone, checking on all the details. Basically, we hosted a board meeting, social, raffle, dinner and evening program for 110 women and priests. It was a terrific evening, however, I'm glad it's over for another 6 years. We also celebrated Grace's 8th birthday, with a trip to a riding stable, where DH, myself, Lee and Grace all went on a trail ride. It rained for the last 15 minutes of the ride, but was still fun. We got to trot, which we all loved, except Lee. He doesn't have enough weight to keep him on the horse. When his horse trotted he just bounced all over the saddle. Grace loved the ride, but I think she loved the fact that we went to Subway before the ride, even better. Lou and Ray stayed home with grandma.

We own and operate a cranberry marsh. It's family owned and has been in business growing cranberries for about 55 years. With that said, harvest season is upon us. The preparation of harvesting equipment takes about 1 month and the actual harvest takes about 2 weeks. DH has been dilegently working to be as prepared as possible. I am preparing for the harvest season by baking lots of quick breads and muffiins so that DH has something to snack on during his long hours beating the beds (knocking the cranberries off the vines) and frost watch (running irrigation sprinklers to wet the cranberries during the night when it freezes). I am happy, but the kids are not, that we do not have any tours scheduled for this season. The last 5 years we've either had our homeschool group or MOPS (mothers of pre-schoolers) out for a tour. I think just about everyone I know has been here for a tour at one time or another. I guess I shouldn't meet anyone new if I don't want any more tours.

The title of this entry was chosen with the anticipation of actually writing about homeschooling. We've developed a great schedule this year. My plan was to share that schedule along with the details of what materials we are using. I guess that will have to be next time.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Wishes Come True

This morning Lee said to me that wishes really do come true. He said that all his birthday wishes and dandelion puff wishes were for a new dirt bike. And now he has one. He has been one happy boy, which does not mean that without it he was unhappy, but he really feels like a big boy now that he has a dirt bike. There's a lot of responsibility that comes with the dirt bike. Both Grace and Lee are doing great with riding. Dad talked to them this morning, reminding them that if they can't concentrate on getting school work done, they won't be able to ride. They were terrific "students". Our morning was successful; Grace and Lee read to me, from Robinson Crusoe Reader and Bob Books, respectively. They both wrote in their journal, practiced saying and spelling our address, worked in their phonics workbook (Grace has a giant SchoolZone workbook that she does 2 pages a day and Lee has a rhyme workbook that he does 1 page a day), we read The Crayon Counting Book (counting by 2's) and they watched Reading Rainbow: How Much is a Million?. Lou and I made peanut butter swirl bars and then it was time for lunch. Next we need to take in about 35 lbs. of venison to have processed into summer sausage, hot sticks and brat patties. Dad and Lee got a doe the opening morning of archery season.

We're planning on homemade pizza for supper. Grace is frying the sausage right now and Lee is waiting for me to help him fill the bread machine pan. Time to go.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Dirt Bikes and Hillbilly Talk

First on dirt bikes: We have been storing a Yamaha 90 dirt bike in our garage for a year. It belongs to some friends who live in the city and don't have a spot to run the machine. They store it here in trade for riding privileges on our trails. Well, with that said, our oldest being 10 days shy of 8 and then the next younger at 6 1/2 have been wanting to ride the dirt bike - or even better they would love to have one of their own. We decided to size them to the 90 and found out that we would need something smaller for the younger, Lee. They don't know it yet, but we will be buying a Honda 50cc dirt bike tomorrow morning before going on to violin. Dear husband and I have been talking about making this purchase, for a long time now. The day has finally (well in about 12 hours) come. I'm not sure if I'm prepared for the meticulous scheduling that will need to be arranged to avoid arguments or the possibility of an accident, but daddy Lee says they have to grow up some day. Even though these are my oldest I'm talking about, it's still hard for this mother to loosen up the reins. They seem so young, fragile and soooooo able to make silly mistakes. It's one thing when they make a quick turn on their bicycle and wipe out in the gravel; there's no motor between their legs. Yet, we have worked very hard at raising responsible children and from what other people tell us we've done a good job at that. Let's hope they are right.

Hillbilly Talk - Lou, who is now 4, has developed quite a pattern of speech. We have come to call it hillbilly talk; here are a few examples. I don't mean to offend anyone by this term.
"Who dem name?" she says when meeting my cousin.
"I haf to tell you sumpa." she says when she has something to tell us.
"Daddy will you please wipe me, cuz I go poop." she yells after she, well you know.
That's just a few I can think of now. If I think of more I'll update this list.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

September.......the Month of Birthdays

Today is Grandpa's birthday. He turned 75. I am so fortunate to have a somewhat young grandpa. He was on child #2 (my mom) at age 20. My mom gave birth to me at age 21, so I come from a young family. I increased the average age for baby making all the way to 25 when I had our first child, Grace. She will be 8 in just ten days. Did I mention that Lou just turned 4 on September 4? She had a 3-D ducky cake, which I have to say turned out great. Monday was my husband's brother's 21st birthday. I think I better stay off the scale this month; I've eaten more than my share of cake.

We do something called "Subject of the Day". This is where I get to add my two cents into my children's education. I plan out 2 or 3 weeks at a time what we will do each day. General topics include, but are not limited to, History, Geography, Science, PhyEd/Games, Art, etc. Following is a list of the "Subject of the Day" topics for Monday-Thursday of this week.

Monday - We did a science experiment called Rock and Dissolve. For instructions see September 12 posting.

Tuesday - Read about opposites.
Exactly the Opposite
A High, Low, Near, Far, Loud Quiet Story

Wednesday - Watched the movie Ben and Me and account of Benjamin Franklin's life through the eyes of his pet mouse, Amos. I watched it once, the kids watched it 3 times all on Wednesday.

Thursday - Talked about adjectives and verbs, then read a couple of books which highlight each of these parts of speech.
A is for Angry (adjectives)
I Think I Thought and Other Tricky Verbs
We also spent a couple of hours cooking today to take food to grandpa's birthday party. Grace chopped onions, measured most of the ingredients for the broccoli salad and prepared the salad dressing. Lee washed and chopped 5 cups of broccoli. Lou and I made frosting. She counted out 12 potatoes and helped me add milk and butter to the mashed potatoes. Ray just followed us around begging for any tidbits of food that we would give him. We managed to get all the food prepared and packed in the van in just under 2 hours. Kids love to help when they know they are offering real help and not just given made up jobs to keep their hands busy. They always rise to the occasion.

Friday - Since it's only Thursday night anything can happen, but the plan for Friday is to make mosaic crosses out of the scraps of photos I crop away when putting together my Creative Memories albums. This is just an idea I had late one night when I was delerious from cropping way too many photos. I decided to save the scraps and make mosaics. We'll see how this goes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

It's Apple Season

We have six apple trees; one produced an abundance of apples this year. I believe they are cortlands. Last night daddy Lee and I canned 14 quarts of applesauce and then froze another 5 or 6 quarts. We still have apples left to work up. I can feel the ambition building in me to make all my favorite apple recipes. The list includes: apple pie, cranberry apple nut pie, grandma's apple crisp, apple slices, cran-apple oat muffins. I'm having a sugar high just thinking of all the goodies. The kids and I were also hoping to make homemade pizza for supper. I should be in the kitchen and not at the computer.

The kids have been into this video, Kids Can Dance! It's basically oldies, but goodies, sung by 8-12 year olds. They wear appropriate costumes and dance like mad. I find myself stopping by and joining in on The Twist. Who can resist? And it's a good workout, too. Happily, we have settled into a "school" routine. Grace and Lee have been eager to get their work done so they can play. Today we were done by 10:45 am. Compared to last week when Lee was still doing work at 4:00 pm, today was a blessing (for all of us). They are outside playing in the island, which is just a tree filled area along our driveway in between the reservoir and marsh. They have been building deer blinds down there. Hunting season is all year round at our home.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Try Some Science

Experiment #1 - The Bouncin' Egg

Label two glasses. One for water, the other for vinegar. Place a raw egg in each. Wait a few days to see what happens. Touch the egg shells each day. After about 5 days, drop each egg into a pail (just a couple of inches above the bottome). What happens? Why?

Discuss the effect of an acid on calcium carbonate (shell). The acid dissolves the calcium carbonate. The shell becomes rubbery. Our egg didn't actually bounce, but it was fun all the same. Smell the vinegar. Touch the broken egg shells. How are they different? the same?

Try this with a chicken bone. How long does it take before you can tie the bone in a knot?

Experiment #2 - Rock and Dissolve

Label 3 glasses with water, vinegar (acetic acid), lemon juice (citric acid). Fill each about 1/2 full. Place a piece of chalk (calcium carbonate) in each. Watch for a few minutes. What happens in each glass? Do you see bubbles (gas from the chemical reaction)? What is happening to each piece of chalk? Which one is getting smaller faster? Which of the 3 liquids is an acid? Which is the strongest acid? This is a very quick version of how acid rain works. Acid rains' effect is much slower. How long does it take for all the chalk to dissolve?

Enjoy these experiments. Even the youngest of kids will enjoy these even if they don't understand what is happening.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Kids and Their Big Ideas

About a year ago grandma (my mom) gave the kids a craft idea book. It's one of those books that uses recycled materials like toilet paper tubes, detergent bottles and boxes and pop bottles to create elaborate spider mobiles, Native American dream catchers, binoculars, pretend canteens, etc. Of course, the samples are displayed in full color and most likely were painted in steps over a period of three days by a crafty ADULT who got paid to make all these projects. Lee is my project kid. He begged me to help (completely make) some of the projects last year when he was still 5. He presumed that the grocery bag cowboy vest would look just as good on him as it did in the picture. He was wrong. He was mad. I didn't win the mother of the year award. Fast forward to this year. He is now 6 1/2, understands how pictures can be deceiving and is able, for the most part, to put together these projects making a few modifications based on his abilities. Two weeks ago he cut green construction paper bookmarks and marked about 25 pages of projects to make. I was a little nervous knowing that sometimes frustration gets the best of him when things don't turn out how he imagined, but so far, so good. He's made walkie talkies, moroccas, binoculars, mini basketball game, canteen and a few other forgotten ones. He has been a dream to work with. He's using is problem solving skills, trying out new ways to get to the same end product. His room is full of these toilet paper tube projects, but he is happy and keeping himself engaged. What more could a mom want?

Friday, September 9, 2005

We ended the first full week of "not back to school" school today. Only a few tears were shed by Grace when I asked her to write the words for the numbers 1 - 20. She came to me crying that if they wanted the number eight to sound like "a" they should of just started it with an "a". Well, we got through that and now that she knows how to spell eight, she doesn't remember what all the fuss was even about.

As I peruse blogs lately, I notice a common thread; concern over teaching/learning to read. I am no expert, however, I have taught two of my four children to read so far. As a first time reading teacher, I used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. We completed all 100 lessons and then went right on to the 20 recommended reading selections along with making the word flashcards. The program worked fine. I do have to say that I think I learned more about reading than did Grace. Being the good student/reader/speller that I am, I took reading for granted and never thought about phonics rules and how they relate to the English language. The 100 lessons did teach me many of the phonics rules that I took for granted and made it very easy for me to forge on without any "real" curriculum to teach reading to my next child, Lee. With Lee I set aside the 100 easy lessons and picked up the Bob Books. We love them! The tiny booklets are the perfect size for pint sized hands. The stories are cute without being stupid and if used in order, Level A - Level C, they offer a good reading start. Slowly many of the phonics "rules" are used, although they are not formally introduced. You need to know the rules so you can point them out to your child. My children and I are also extremely happy with a program called Happy Phonics (which can be purchased through www.lovetolearn.net) The author wrote this program to teach phonics to her 7 or 8 children. The games are simple, fun and easy for a parent to use on a daily basis. Currently we have been playing "The Castle Game", which focuses on hearing the short vowel sounds in words. So far I have found games that are suitable for my 4 year old, 6 1/2 year old and 8 year old. One more book I would recommend checking out from your local library is The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. This book is similar in style to 100 easy lessons, however, it does not contain all the stupid stories. It is more thorough; it covers more of the phonics rules and I believe helps children sound out words better. It also teaches word families (cat, hat, mat, rat, sat) which I've found very helpful for young readers. Check it out and good luck with your reading adventure!

Friday, September 2, 2005

Creamy Peanut Dessert - aka Peanut Butter Fluff

1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs (about 22 squares)
1/2 c. chopped salted peanuts
1/4 c. butter, melted
2 T. peanut butter

Mix together, reserve 1/2 cup for topping. Press remainder in greased 9x13 pan. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
16 oz. thawed Cool Whip
3-4 Tbsp. chocolate syrup

Beat cream cheese and PB until smooth. Beat in sugar and vanilla. Fold in whipped topping; spoon over crust. Drizzle with chocolate syrup; sprinkle with reserved crumbs. Cover and freeze for up to 3 months (no way can anyone hold out that long). Remove from freezer 15 minutes before serving.

Getting into the Groove

The groove I'm referring to is the fall/school schedule. Grace is officially in 2nd grade. She started off by making an entry in her journal, then on to counting money. I added the half dollar to her repertoire. She's catching on quickly. She read to me from Robinson Crusoe Reader while I made lunch. Lee, who is officially in 1st grade, also started the day by making an entry into his journal. He dictates to me what he wants to write; I write it in light yellow marker leaving out short words that he can sound out and spell himself. He copies over my writing with pencil adding in the easier words himself. Lou will not be left out of the loop. She has a workbook with shapes and letters to trace. She did a few pages and then we played Muffin Match (Lee, Lou and me). Muffin Match is a game from the Happy Phonics program. The game was too simple for Lee, however, he had fun showing Lou how to play and helped her spell her name using the muffin tops. Lee read two Bob Books to me and then we called it a day. All of this took place in about 1 hour 15 minutes. After lunch we played games. I played CountDown with Grace and then with Lee. Grace and Lee played HiHo CherryO with Lou. Lou napped, Grace and Lee watched a couple of cartoon DVD's (grandma saved them from cereal boxes, which made it a special treat). Later Lou helped me make Peanut Butter Fluff, a favorite dessert that turned out to be peanut butter flat because being in a hurry I mixed in the whipped topping before it had thawed. I guess that just doesn't work. Anyways, it still tasted great.

Now that it's fall again, the content of my blog is going to detail our homeschooling days. I will be posting books that we read, science experiments tried and notes on the Happy Phonics games.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Place of Grace

Great friends just (in May) adopted a beautiful baby girl from Ethiopia. Her name is Grace and she has quite a story. Today's title contains the link to her website. Read her story, see her face, consider adoption, donate to the orphanage. I know this very PR sounding, however she has touched so many lives and if you give it a look she might change yours, too.

We cleaned Grace's room this afternoon. Actually we had a date planned. Lou and Ray napped; Lee broke rocks, from Lake Superior, outside and we dismantled, purged, cleaned and organized. It was serious business for us, but now the rewards will be bountiful, for about 1 week.

Monday, August 29, 2005

School...What's That?

About two weeks ago we decided that August 29 would be the day that our life would resume to some normalcy and schedule, meaning that "schoold would start". HA!!!!! Life happens and before you know it the calendar is booked with Grace's, gotta have, Hawaiian Luau Party, Lee's plans to ride Derek's motor bike, Daddy Lee's obligation to install my mom's ceiling fan, Daddy Lee's truck needing a spray in bed liner, and one last sleepover with schooled friends before their big day arrives. Some how school just doesn't fit in with all of that. I contemplated listing all the learning that has and will occur while completing each of the above mentioned tasks, but I'm too tired right now and anyways the possibilities for learning are endless. Next Sunday Lou turns four years old, complete with a 3-D rubber ducky cake (that I will be making ARGH). We'll start things up next Tuesday after Labor Day. So, for now, all learning must be stifled until school starts. You know I'm just kidding.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Bread and Jam For ....My Family

I love the book Bread and Jam For Francis. It was read to me as a child and now I read it to my kids. It's a real treat of a story for picky eaters. We are up to our ears in blackberry jam. Lee, Grace and I went blackberry picking again. We picked more than 1/2 an ice cream pail full. That was plenty to make another batch of jam. Grace dumped her pail; she's now 2 for 2 (meaning both times she picked she dumped her pail). Sand is hard to rinse off tender berries. Lee and I would still be picking if we didn't live a life full of obligations, laundry, mouths to feed and a garden to be tended.

Derek has been working for Daddy Lee on the marsh. He stays overnight with us for a few days. He's 14 and loves to play hide and seek, tag, cards (SkipB0) with Grace, Lee and Lou. He's polite and a total joy to have around.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Time to Fly

As we approach the start of another "not back to school year", I find myself frantically trying to finish up the organizing, painting and mending projects that I earmarked for summer vacation. With that said if you are new to homeschooling or need fresh ideas for organizing your homeschool and children's chores, check out the link posted above. FlyLady compiled a list of readers homeschool "not back to school" tips. They are insightful and inspirational. Check them out.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

It's Cookie Time

Grace and her friend Anna made cookies together. Try this great recipe that is so easy.

German Chocolate Cake Mix Cookies
1 pkg. German Chocolate Cake Mix
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup raisins (I use an extra 1/4 cup of oatmeal and leave out the raisins)
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs

Mix all ingredients, blend well. Drop dough by rounded teaspoon 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Flatten slightly with bottom of glass. Bake for 8-10 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Cool one minute on pan. Remove from cookie sheets. (I slightly underbake mine so they remain chewy when cooled.)

These cookies don't last long in our house. Usually by the end of the second day they are gone.

Monday, August 8, 2005

Did You Say Damn It?

Grace misheard something I said today. She said, "Did you say damn it?" My reply was, "No and I don't want you saying it either". "Why can't I say damn it?", Grace asked. "Because it doesn't sound nice coming from a young lady", I replied. "Is damn it a swear word?" she continued. Well, to sum up the conversation we had, "damn it" ended up being said six times! Life with kids is always unpredictable. If someone had told me when I woke up this morning that my oldest, most responsible child would say "damn it" six times today I never would've believed him. I like having people around that are unpredictable. For instance the other day Daddy Lee told me that he painted the tree stumps around our fire ring purple. I gasped in disbelief, laughed at the thought of three purple stumps sticking out of the ground, down by the water and thought what will the "neighbors" think (we don't have any neighbors, except my father-in-law a 1/2 mile away). Upon checking out "Smurfville" I found that he had only painted the tops of the stumps, not the entire stump from ground up. His reasoning was that a painted surface would stay cleaner and keep our clothes cleaner when we sat on the stumps. Again, I never would have predicted that he would paint the stumps. Unpredictability keeps things exciting for me.

Wednesday, August 3, 2005

I've Been Reviewed

Now that I have that glowing review, I hope to live up to it. I'm definitely undeserving of all the fame and attention that kimzyn brought my way. Thank you so very much! Today has been another day at "camp homeschool"and it all started with Farmer Boy. Actually with Almonzo's mom. That lady knows how to cook and she does it all the time. Apple pie for breakfast? Now let me just say, we have eaten apple pie for breakfast, but that was it, not stacked pancakes, side pork, bread spread with apple butter and apple pie. Every chapter tells of a meal better than the last; my mouth is watering just thinking of all the good food. So, last night Lee and I went blackberry picking so that I could pretend to be Almonzo's mom for just a moment in time. I guess Lee felt a little like Almonzo because he asked me if we were preparing for winter. The simple answer is yes; we will make jelly and jam to spread on our toast in December. The long answer is no; we do not need to preserve the summer's harvest because we can easily drive to Copp's Grocery and get frozen blackberries in December to make jelly or even buy the jelly already made. We picked enough to make jelly. I started the process last night and then Grace helped me finish it in the morning. She learned about sterilizing with boiling water and sealing out germs using the inversion method (when a jelly filled jar is tipped upside down, the hot jelly pushing against the lid doesn't allow any air to enter, creating a bacteria free sealed jar of jelly). Still feeling like Almonzo's mom, I rounded up a few cookbooks and began searching for more jelly and jam recipes to make. My list is long, but I have a feeling I might actually check off everything on the list.
blackberry jelly
banana butter - made with Grace before supper tonight
zucchini freezer jam
spiced pumpkin spread
holiday cranberry jam

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Close Quarters

We made a road trip to Manitowoc yesterday. What a perfect day. We stopped at a picnic area along Lake Michigan and wow was it windy. We ate our lunch, walked among the seagulls and watched a young man attempt to surf. Our main destination was the Wisconsin Maritime Museum. The U.S.S. Cobia submarine is stationed there for tourists to get a glimpse into what life was like on the sub during wartime. The sub was fascinating, with the tight sleeping quarters (they slept above and below live torpedos), diesel engines and the intense heat (90 - 100 degrees). The rest of the museum offered many history lessons in early fishing, speed boating and a great exhibit for kids. Waterways of Wisconsin was a hands on room where the kids could build a boat and then sail their boat through the many examples of waterways including locks and dams, draw bridges, water wheels. And yes this all happened in real water. They offered plastic aprons to lesson the amount of water that actually got on the kids. Lou came away soaking wet. After all that fun we headed over to Beerstens for homemade icecream and hand dipped chocolates. We went for a drive through the town and then headed for home.

We have moved on to Farmer Boy. I love this book. I see the surprise in my kids eyes when Almonzo acts so mature for 9 years old. Hopefully some of his politeness and taking responsibility for his actions wears off on my kids.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Eat Your Greens

With July coming to close, that can only mean one thing: fresh garden produce is abundant. I have more zucchini than I know what to do with. I started by grating it and going on a baking frenzy. Luckily, the average high temperature has dropped by about 10-15 degrees today. I made 8 loaves of zucchini bread (substituted 1/4 cup oatmeal for 1 cup of nuts) and one chocolate zucchini snack cake (very yummy). There were cheers of approval when Lee tasted and LIKED the zucchini bread and the cake; last year he wouldn't even try it. He's my picky eater, although I have to say that since he's working towards 7 years old, he is willing to try more and eat more. Then he went out to the butterfly garden, picked a chive and ate it. What is happening to my predictable kid, where has he gone? Tonight he tried Tortellini Soup. While chewing the tortellini and mixed vegetables he gagged, but was still able to keep it down. Again that is a huge change from just last week when he found a soft spot on a strawberry and wouldn't eat anymore of them.

Love to Learn catalog came in the mail today. That catalog has an uncanny ability to get me revved up for another school year. I marked all the books to locate in the library, a few games to check for on ebay and a couple of things to buy.

Grace told my Aunt Lorraine that she's supposed to be doing school this summer, but isn't because I forgot that we were planning on continuing during the summer. I haven't bursted her bubble, but I didn't forget, I just realized that between ballet, tap dance, violin lessons, guitar lessons, piano lessons, frog catching, reading, playing with friends, picnicing, swimming, running and bike riding we simply do not have time for mindless school work. "And what about socialization?" Yeah, what about it?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Lazy Dayz

It's been a lazy day for Lee and Lou. They spent 2 hours and 15 minutes listening to the unabridged version of Moose Tracks. Ray napped the entire time and I made Cottage Potatoes, a June/July Taste of Home recipe. The potatoes were well worth the effort. There was a lot of chopping. Anyway, today was the perfect day to try the recipe. The house was quiet, except for the story narrator. I was able to listen along with the kids, yet get something accomplished. Moose Tracks is an excellent story about a 12 year old boy from Northern Minnesota. He gets himself into a bit of trouble with some bear poachers. Of course, his father is a game warden. In the end it all works out and Seth learns a few valuable lessons about obeying one's parents, living in a blended family and how natural consequences work. A tiny part of the story revolves around the fact that he is homeschooled. That part was not included in the jacket description so it was a pleasant surprise.

Grace is at a friend's today. I guess Sierra got a new playhouse, so she needed some help decorating and organizing the space. Grace is just the one to help with that. She really has an eye for style; hard to believe she's only 7.

We got a request for 4 dozen eggs. Hopefully Irene will trade zucchini and cucumbers for the eggs. She's in her 80's and still has an acre sized garden, "just to have something to give away to my elderly friends". She's great and I'm sure we'll play some cards with her before we head back home.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Another Hot One

Today it's revving up for another 90+ degree day. Before noon and it's already 85 degrees. I realize how fortunate I was to have Ray last summer when it never got over 90 degrees all summer. Breastfeeding in the heat gets pretty steamy. Grace has a friend over. All they want to do is watch PBS. I shooed them outside for a while to run through the sprinkler. When I looked out they were all lying on the grass, tummy down, letting the sprinkler go over them. Since the grass is dead (we don't have a sprinkler system and our yard is far to large to try to sprinkle) they came in covered in what looked like bits of straw. I noticed a bit ago that my sofa now looks like a hay stack.

I've been perusing the book, Home Learning Year by Year by Rebecca Rupp. I'll have a 2nd grader, 1st grader and 2 youngens come fall. I love putting together a general outline for each month. For some reason homeschooling just becomes a way of life and I can't let it go. Even on those lazy days of summer I'm always thinking about a book to read about clouds or identifying frogs or what have you. It's also time to make a list, and check it twice, of needed supplies. Grace is dying to learn to sew. She's done a few pillow projects and a couple of hand sewing endeavors, but she wants to make something real. I guess a pillow for her doll and a neatly stitched stuffed animal aren't considered real in her eyes. Lee and I are going to get back into learning chess and Lou is totally ready to learn to write her ABC's. Most days she "writes" with sidewalk chalk. She writes a lot of A's, T's, and O's. Time to expand on this.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Four Generations

We picked up Lou from Grandma's today. She spent two nights there. Then we all, including Grandma, went to Great grandma and Great grandpa's house for a visit. There was lots of talk about who went on what vacation, who was having what medical problem and just basic family chattering. We all played the piano. Grace and I shared our songs that we've been learning at home, while Lee played a song that he is trying to learn from memory. He heard the song Surfboard Boogie played at a piano recital and is now trying to play it from memory. He has absolutely no piano instruction, but has the rhythm down and some of the notes. Lou and Grace did a little ballet for all the old folks. We ate wild rice and ham soup, that I made, which my mom didn't like and fresh blueberry pie that great grandma made, which Lee didn't like. He's not much for cooked fruits. He likes fresh fruit best. The kids played with bubbles and set up the ring toss. Of course, it's 91 degrees today and too hot to be out for very long. They ended up coming in to watch Ma and Pa Kettle: Return to the Farm. My grandparents find it hilarious as do the kids. It's not very politically correct, but sometimes I just have to grin and bare it.

We're home now and everyone is tired. Daddy Lee hooked a sprinkler head with the round-up machine and ended up dumping Round-Up on a patch of cranberry vines. Tomorrow they will be dead and will not produce fruit for this fall's harvest. He's not in the mood for my sarcastic humor either.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Cooking Kids

Grace and Lou are baking gingerbread men. Yes, it is 86 degrees. Yes, it is July. Yet they found this recipe in their ABC cookbook and decided to give it a try. Grace has been cooking with me since she was able to sit up on the counter. Her skills are phenomenal for a 7 year old. Lou on the other hand is 3 and has not had as many chances to cook with me, having 2 older siblings getting in the way. Anyway, it's going great; I've been called in three times to help.
*How do I measure 3/4 teaspoon?
*Look at this mixture!
*Does this look right?
Now the dough needs to chill. This was devastating for Grace to read. She is a NOW girl. Waiting is not her forte. She's setting the timer for 1 hour. I can't wait to see how they turn out.

Where have I been? We have been at the beach, visiting friends, camping, attending ballet, tap, guitar and violin lessons, hanging with family at family reunions and doing tons of laundry. I finally made time to blog and read other blogs. I did check out some new blogs, but can't seem to get my link icon work to direct you to them.

One cute thing said by Lou, who is three. At the supper table the other night we were talking about golden birthdays and when each of us had ours or will have it. Lou will be 4 on September 4. It will be her golden birthday. Later in the week we were at Walgreens; Lou saw a sand toy that she liked. She kept asking me if I would come back and buy it for her metal birthday. After about three times of asking her to repeat it (because I had no idea what she meant) she said, "you know 4 on the 4th, my metal birthday". It finally came to me that she meant golden birthday, but had forgotten the name of the metal. Very cute.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Pea Soup

Oh.....the humidity. It's so sticky, just loading groceries into the van was too much. We are enjoying the day by staying in the air conditioned house, swatting the mosquitos that flew in during the brief moment the door was open.

Yesterday, we beat the heat in town at a friends house. They have a pool, which felt so good. And of course, everyone slept well last night. Lou didn't even make it through supper.

We have more plans to swim, tube and ski with some friends on Saturday. We are all looking forward to getting wet again. With such short summers in Wisconsin, we have to enjoy every minute. Before you know it, it's cooling off for fall.

The girls started dance today. They loved it; each of them takes a combo ballet/tap class. Lee stayed home and worked with dad. It's summer and we drive to town almost everyday for an activity. Come fall daddy Lee and I need to limit the activities again. I think things are getting a little out of hand. Reality sets in really quick when Lee comments that he doesn't want to be dance for 6 weeks this summer. Of course, I said to him, "You're not in dance." His reply was something like, "no, but I have to go along, which cuts into my biking and catching frogs time." He's right! We travel in a pack of 5 always, and on Sundays as a pack of 6.

Less than 2 weeks and my baby will be 1. Where did the time go? Thinking back brings tears to my eyes. With the first it seemed that the first year took forever. I couldn't wait for each new stage. Now I wish I could stop time and truly enjoy each moment.

Thursday, June 23, 2005


We met friends at the beach yesterday. Dawn just finished her first year of homeschooling her four children. I'm so proud of her. She even commented that she can't imagine ever sending them back to public school, ever. I was reminded by her not to quote her on that. Sorry, Dawn. We enjoyed a picnic lunch and then hit the water for four hours. Honestly, it was the fastest four hours of my life. The girls did regular beach stuff: dug in the sand, jumped around in the water, buried their feet in the sand, layed in the sun, ate snacks......girl stuff. The boys on the other hand brought along true metal shovels. They dug huge holes and excavated large flat rocks, laid them out on the beach to make roads around their sand castles. They dug elaborate river systems and finally, to cool off, rolled in the sand, covering their entire body (hair included) and then jumped in the lake. They proceded to play dunking games and scared the girls with clumps of seaweed.

Despite my attempt to return home without any sunburns, we all have areas of pink. We did slather on the 45 spf, but of course, managed to miss spots. This morning we are all feeling sun-kissed. Can't wait to do it again.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Blast from the Past

Summer has officially started. The calendar says so and so does the library. Today was the first summer reading program. It was a fencing demonstration. How cool. We met some friends there and watched the instructor, who was awesomely witty, and his assistant demo different styles of fencing, discuss the history of fencing and how to critique movie sword fights (and take all the fun out of them). The whole program was fascinating and engaging. To top it off I checked out The Princess Bride (1987). It was a great way to finish off the day. I couldn't help reminiscing about the summer of '87, fresh out of 9th grade with nothing better to do but babysit fulltime for $40.00 a week and watch The Princess Bride in all my spare time. Grace and Lee loved the movie and, of course, can't wait to watch it again tomorrow.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Mosquito Fest

One wood tick, one hairy spider in MY shoe, too much sand in the tent, one great swimming hole, two fun water rafts, great food, too many sunburned cheeks and lots of laughs. It was another fun Mosquito Fest. Jan and Rod hosted the 3rd annual campout. We came home tired and ready for air conditioning, but what a blast we had!

Today it's back to the normalcy of life. We'll work together to do the Monday Home Blessing and then I'll mow the lawn. If all goes well, that'll be done before lunch and then we can relax outside in the afternoon. Oh, and do laundry, all 5-6 loads of it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

A Day Late

It's Tuesday and time for the Monday Home Blessing, yes I know that doesn't make sense. However, after yesterday's foot in the egg pail, egg white and yolk dripping from the counter top and trash can situation and the dropped glass candle holder in the bathroom incident, we did enough cleaning for one day. This all happened before 10:00 AM. We had plans to pick up my mom, get a bucket of chicken and picnic at a park. We finished eating, not quite in the nick of time. We had to pack up and run to the van in the downpour. In the last last 5 days we've had 6 inches of rain. When will it stop?

Yesterday we also planted the garden, a little late this year, but better than never. We're trying carrots again. Last time I tried with no luck.

List of vegetables planted:
sweet corn

The kids have a friend over today. They all helped out with the home blessing. With us all working together we finished in under an hour. The kids worked so hard. I think we'll have a friend over next Monday; for some reason friends are so willing to help clean, which in turn motivates my kids. It's a win:win situation.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Weekend Recap

Grace had violin Saturday morning. I hit a garage sale, all by myself! Found a great foam U.S. puzzle and some jeans for Lee that ended up being too small. The afternoon went by quickly. We went fishing on the upper pond and caught one bass. Another round of thunderstorms came through. Grant and Anna had a piano recital that we attended in the evening and then played for a few hours afterwards.

Sunday started out with church and then an afternoon of mostly rest and relaxation. The kids watched a video called I Love Dinosaurs. I believe it's a National Geographic film. 80 excellent minutes of dino entertainment and it's educational, too. Well, I learned a few new things anyway. It seems when I point out something new I learned, my kids always say "Oh, I already knew that". I practiced piano; it's such a great feeling to stretch my mind. I'm definitely out of my comfort zone. Speaking of comfort zone, my muscles ache and my knees are quivering. Grace and I are preparing to run a 5K on the Fourth of July. I believe that's about 3.2 miles. Neither one of us are runners. Most days I think we are crazy. Deep down I wish I could just quit, but since I'm the adult I guess I better just shut up and set a good example.

Later this evening we have a graduation party to go to. They have horses; the kids can't wait.

Friday, June 10, 2005

You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

Grace and I have been fervently practicing piano for 2 days. I was pleasantly surprised by my ability to learn the bass clef staff of notes. You see I have known the treble clef for about 23 years and have been scared to learn the bass clef, because the notes are in different spaces and on different lines. Well, it's not so bad. We chose the Piano Adventures series by Nancy and Randall Faber. It goes ever so slowly and explains each new bit of info clearly. My favorite song to play if "Planetarium". Grace's fav is "Two Black Ants".

Lee has been working on place value, tens and ones. He is so smart when it comes to math. His writing has become more fluent over the last few months. He seems to enjoy using a pencil more and more, which just so happens to be the goal.

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

No Lettuce?

Lou came in with a single chive. She asked to make a salad.

"We don't have any lettuce."

She frowned.

"We don't have any carrots."

She frowned and then put in her last request. "I can make a salad with chips?!"

I offered her some Triscuits. She ate the crackers and handed me the chive. Now I have onion breath.

Yesterday was my birthday. Lee senior and I took the kids to a friends (for another birthday celebration) and we went biking on the Green Circle in Stevens Point. Ray enjoyed riding in the Burley, for the most part. Went out for lunch with my mom. Grace and Lee made me a cake from scratch. They measured and read the recipe. What determination!

Today Grace and I each bought a beginner piano book. We plan on teaching ourselves to play piano. We each conquered our first lesson. So far, so good.

The latest in questions from Lee: "Did George Washington have a piano?" We'll have to stop by Ask Jeeves in a few minutes.

Monday, June 6, 2005


Children look at the world with such awe. For example, Lee asked me Saturday, "Which is bigger, a daddy longlegs or a baby mouse?" I just love the way his mind tackles the tough issues.

We went to the beach! We are a beach family. Everyone loves to swim and yesterday was hot and a little humid...perfect for the beach. Since we only have 3 short months of beach weather we try to make the most of it. Yesterday was Ray's first time at the beach; he loved the sand. He crawled, dug, scooped, ate and played in the sand until he was covered from head to toe.

Lee senior had my birthday present delivered today, a Clavinova. It's a digital piano. I've wanted to play piano since I was a kid. Can't wait to get some beginner books. The music store owner thought that since I play violin I might be able to self teach myself. I'm concerned with learning bass clef.

Kids are begging to know when summer vacation starts. It's so hard to explain that learning can happen any day. Do we really need to have an end date? If we do does that mean that they'll only want to watch TV all day? How do you other unschoolers handle this?

Friday, June 3, 2005

Mail Call

I received the new Love to Learn catalog in the mail today. I love good mail days. The wish list is long.

A Lot of Mouths to Feed

Lord, help me! I have 7 kids in my home today.

Boys ages: 8, 6, 5, 10 months

Girls ages: 7, 3, 3

No time to blog.

Thursday, June 2, 2005

Summer Vacation?

"Tommy's on summer vacation, mom. When do we start?" my kids hollered in the van on the way home from the park. Since we unschool, my question is, did we ever really start school? This is a hard concept to convey to a 7 and 6 year old. So I asked them what they considered to be school. They answered: reading to mom, math, and exercising.

My reply was simple: "Stop doing those things. Remember that exercising includes biking, running, swinging. Math includes Yahtzee, cooking and using the tape measure." They decided to continue with school.

Still, it's hard for them to understand the concept of learning all the time in a world that wants learning to occur in the confines of a classroom.

Grace kicked Lee

What is it with kids? Why do they have to lash out at one another? Grace kicked Lee, apparantly because he looked into the bin of clean socks. It's Grace's month to fold socks and she seems to be a little posssessive about the job. Grace is on my time today. So far she collected and disposed of the trash, scrubbed all the trash cans, cleaned under her bed and is now reading and writing in her journal.

Grace and I are still working on reviewing the first grade material in the book, Home Learning Year by Year.

Last year I came across a book that I ended up buying titled, Math for your 1st and 2nd grader. A college math professor wrote the book basically because he was disgusted in the lack of math skills of high school graduates. He believes that it all comes down to learning the basics. I first checked it out from the library and used it with Grace for 2 weeks. Then about a month after taking it back to the library Grace asked when we were going to do more of "that book". I logged onto Amazon.com and bought it used. We finished 1st grade about 6 weeks ago. Yesterday Grace asked, "When are we gonna start on 2nd grade?" So we got it out and she counted to 200 aloud. We giggled and remembered how much we love math!

Baby Ray says mama, dada and stands by himself for 1 second before falling.

This morning we discussed the phrase, "let sleeping tigers lie". This of course was referring to Lee when he falls asleep in the van.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Kindergarten Graduation

I pulled out Home Learning Year by Year by Rebecca Rupp this morning. Lee and I went through the kindergarten section to see if we covered the generals of kindergarten. I highlighted a few things to do this summer.

1. Play with shadows - My idea is to line up boxes on the sidewalk on the sunny side of the house and then, using chalk, trace the outline of their shadow. I believe this will make a city scape. If we do this a few times during the day we'll notice how the shadow changes according the angle of the sun. Sounds like great fun to me. I'll report back when we try it.

2. Pledge of Allegiance - We better practice this along with a few other "Americana" symbols.

3. Read books about famous Americans and the five senses.

4. Gather data and make a pictoral graph. I'm thinking numbers of rocks, frogs, insects collected over a period of 2 weeks.

Tomorrow I'll do the 1st grade section with Grace.

Things to do today:
make rhubarb dessert
picnic with friends
make chili
play violin with Grace
read Little House on the Prairie

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Variety Show

Thursday night was the annual Variety Show. Grace played her violin, accompanied by Tyler; they did a great job. Afterwards she commented that her knees were shaking. I'm so proud of her! Grace and Lou along with Greta sang a song and signed along with it, they did a great job. They sang loud and clear. It was a lovely evening. I'm working on Lee for next year. Of course Grace spent all Friday choreographing dance moves to all her favorite songs. She tried learning all the words; she's convinced she's going to sing again next year.

Since we're on the topic of performing, the girls have been begging for dance lessons. Our area dance studio has a 6 week summer session that we're going to try. It's a combo ballet and tap dance class. Just found out that the ballet slippers are $15.99 at Payless Shoes. That seems a little steep; looks like we'll be making a trip to Goodwill this week.

Homeschooling isn't all about the kids. I still have hobbies, too. I've been on a bread baking kick, lately. I don't like my new bread machine; I can't seem to get it just right. The bread either over rises and then sinks or doesn't rise at all and we end up with a hard lump of bread. My old bread machine was better, but I'll stop whining about it. Anyway, I decided to let the machine do the kneading and first rise and then I take it out to shape it and let it rise a second time, then bake it in the oven. The bread turns out just fabulous. The most recent is Coffee Raisin Bread from Quick Cooking. I'll publish the recipe another time.

My kids and dear husband are begging for me to finish up so we can go for a boat ride and do some fishing. The worms are dug and the sun is out.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Unschooling Our Way to a Great Education

Yesterday was so perfect. The bright sun warmed my cheeks, friends came over for a visit and the kids played hard. I just love those kind of days. To capture the greatness of the day, I'll need to recount the day with a bit more detail.

Early in the morning the kids and I ate homemade rhubarb jam (we made last week) on some cheap, but surprisingly good multi-grain bread. We watched the rose-breasted grossbeak flutter at the bird feeder. Tyler called to remind us that the variety show is coming up this Thursday and that we better come over to practice the violin/piano piece. We all went over and I ended up cleaning while the kids (Tyler is 20) prepared their music pieces. See, they adopted a baby from Ethiopia and the parents were coming home last night. Another friend was over cleaning, too. What a great feeling to clean someone else's home, especially knowing that they will have jet lag and a new addition to their family.

Lunch was leftovers, good ones. Then we did our Monday Home Blessing before some homeschooling friends came over. The older girls practiced a song and signing that they will be performing at the variety show. We talked all afternoon. It was so great. The windshield on our truck was replaced; all the kids sat at the top of the swingset watching so intently. The guys got a kick out of that.

Egg customers came a callin' yesterday. Sold 6 dozen. Grace made brochures last week describing their egg business and we delivered them to neighbors. That really did the trick, no more scrambled eggs for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

After a quick supper we headed back outside to enjoy the beautiful weather before it turns chilly and rainy again. The greenhouse was begging to be filled, so we filled it. We're trying muskmelon this year. Lee hopes to get some biggies, they're his favorite.

We read from The Indian in the Cupboard and went to bed, tired. What a great feeling.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Weekend Fun

We had such a full weekend, yet it was completely relaxing. Friday night we took a drive to Powers Bluff to look at all the beautiful wildflowers. Triliums, Columbine, Wild Asters and more were in full bloom. My favorite are the triliums; they carpet the ground in white. Stunning and beautiful! Lee and Ray fell asleep so they ended up missing out on the fun, but did get some much needed rest. Grace and Lou played on the playground equipment and climbed on the rocks. We had such a nice time and since 2 of the 4 were asleep, no quarrelling.

Saturday I had a church obligation, so dad took the Grace to violin. Everyone napped in the afternoon except me. I planted flowers. Saturday night we had a First Communion to attend and then a party afterward, which the kids loved. We ended up staying at Sierra's until 10:30 p.m. Since our church obligation was met on Saturday night we had all day Sunday to putter around home. DH put away the summerized the snowmobiles, while I mowed the lawn. Kids played outside all day. We had a great pork chop dinner and then headed to the Highground war memorial.

The Highground is a memorial to all the fallen soldiers of past wars. We milled around the property reading about each war memorial. A replica liberty bell is present and open to bell ringing. Lee and I are the only ones who rang the bell, but did it a number of times.

Great weekend.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

"You must be a Saint"

Yesterday three of the six family members had dental appointments. As I lay back in the vinyl covered chair, the hygienist asked about my children (ages, gender, which school they attend). Of course I gave the run down of names and ages and that we homeschool. That's when I heard it, "You must be a saint, I stopped at two and sent them to school." How do you respond to that type of comment? I've heard this so many times it usually doesn't phase me, but this time it really hit a nerve. I could've said I love kids, but does that infer that she doesn't. I could've said I enjoy playing and conversing with my kids, but does that infer that she doesn't. I could've said that I want to be the one to shape my child's character, but does that infer that she doesn't. I could've said that I love seeing the sparkle in their eyes when they make new discoveries, but does that infer that she doesn't. I could've said so many things, but I settled with a simple question. "How old are your kids?" That led into an entire teeth cleaning of detailed info on her two girls and their accomplishments. I have to say it was much better than trying to describe my love of homeschooling, and why it's so awesome, to someone who wants to spend most of their time away from her kids. We managed to be done with three cleanings, 2 sets of X-rays and 2 grab bags of goodies all in one hour. The children were well behaved and asked some great questions. They managed to give homeschoolers a good rap today! YES!!!!!!

Short list of what we did today:
*morning checklist (including breakfast, personal care, room pickup and rotating morning chore)
*Lee practiced guitar
*talked to Grace on the phone (she's at grandma's)
*Lee wondered what was under the ocean floor, so we looked through some books for the answer to that
*listened to Lee read Bob Books
*nursed baby, fed baby cheerios, nursed baby, changed baby's diaper
*Lou set numerous puzzles, cut out paper and "wrote" lists of things to buy, traced animals using stencils
*had a snack of molasses cookie bars
*confirmed homeschool planetarium field trip
*helped Lee use a number line
*Lee and Lou played outside

It's time for a nap!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Operation: Clean House

IT'S MONDAY AND THAT MEANS, TIME FOR THE MONDAY HOME BLESSING. My new favorite line in our home is, "We all work together now, so we can all play later". Grace and Lee have accepted this and vigorously helped to clean the house this morning. The home blessing isn't a big deal at all if we all work together. It may sound like my kids are eagerly awaiting Monday morning so as to begin housework. Well, they're not! In our house, I begin when the kids are very young incorporating life skills into the "curriculum". By 3 or 4 they put away their own laundry (which I have folded), make their own bed (like a 3 year old can), and clear their place at the table. We gradually add responsibilities to their list as they mature. I've found the most important part of enlisting kids to help with household chores to be starting early when they are eager and stating the expectation of what's to be accomplished clearly. We also have a house rule that states, "When we have work to do, we do it without complaining." Of course, the kids use the rule on me, too, which I love. :)

We are planting cranberry vines this week. The kids will be busy helping out. I, on the other hand, will be preparing food for the extra mouths to feed. Lou and I made homemade bread; it didn't rise like I wanted, but was delicious anyway.

After lunch the kids played "cowboy" outside in the woods. They collected dandelions and wild mustard to decorate their cabin. Watching kids play can be so relaxing, yet inspiring. They are truly beautiful creations of God. I love homeschooling!

Saturday, May 14, 2005

This and That

Saturday is not a typical school day, however, learning is still to be found at our home. Three of the 5 butterflies emerged today. We all learned that butterflies have meconoium, too. Human birth was discussed at length and now the kids are all disgusted that they pooped "black tar" when they were newborns. By the way the butterfly meconium is blood red.

Grace slept over at a friend's last night. The highlight according to her was playing rock star, college (with pretend cell phones) and staying up until 1:00 am. I picked her up from Suzuki repertoire at noon and then the afternoon has been dedicated to uninterupted movie time. The kids think they are in heaven.

Today's weather is gloomy again. We've had a few rain showers and lots of wind. Things don't look good for the next few days. I want sun! (said with a whiny voice and a firm stomp of the foot)

Tomorrow is the Lorie Line concert. I'm taking my best friend for her birthday. My husband and I went to a performance last year and it was fantastic. She plays beautiful, self arranged piano music with a terrific accompanying orchestra and even better costumes. Can't wait!

Friday, May 13, 2005

Life With Pets

During the last couple of weeks my house has been overrun by "pets". We always have a black lab and 15 chickens that reside outside, but somehow I've been suckered into allowing pets inside. Not big pets, but they do require care none the less. Earlier in the week Lee found an injured butterfly, a beautiful copper. We think the problem is that it is just too cold for its wings to warm up. Even in the house it's not doing so well. We also ordered 5 American Painted Lady larva, which are now in the chrysalid portion of their life. Everyone is anxiously awaiting their emergence as butterflies. Lee made a home for a varigated cutworm. After some brief research we were still in the dark as to how long their larval stage is and what to expect next, if anything. Of course every spring brings with it the awakening of turtles. We've had a couple of baby painted turtles for a day or two and found a large turtle near the reservoir. I'm just realizing that we forgot to look up its species. Everyone has been keeping the bird feeder full of black oil sunflower seeds, which is bringing many species of birds. Lou (3 years old) and I made binoculars out of toilet paper tubes. The viewing is going much better for her now.

Speaking of "Life With Pets", I cannot forget about my children. Since watching E.T. and reading Is There Life in Outer Space? they have been acting like aliens. I even heard Grace (7 years old) conversing with an alien while she was in the bathtub.

Unschooling is like this. Everyday is a little different and always exciting. I love to watch my children learn naturally and they love the freedom to explore the world daily.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Gloomy Skies = Bad Days

Company arrived last night for the turkey hunting season. Things get a little turned upside down whenever another hunting season arrives. Since everyone gets up so early to hear hunting stories during breakfast the "grumpies" come out earlier than most days. Top it off with strong winds and gloomy skies and the day has only one way to go, downhill fast.

With that said, we decided to lay low and begin by reading. Currently we are reading from the Little House on the Prairie series. Most mornings we begin by reading a chapter or two and then move on from there. The kids like to make a verbal list of a few things they want to do each day. It helps to give some structure to the unschooling day. Grace and Lee practiced their instruments, violin and guitar, respectively. They each made an entry into their journal. The plan is to make cookies, play Jumpstart 1st Grade and then time for lunch. Hopefully the afternoon brings on a few more smiles than the morning.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Mixed Nuts

"Mom, I like two kinds of nuts, now", my 6 year old said. Here's the needed background information. During the Christmas season we put out a bowl of mixed nuts (in the shell). Nick excitedly shelled one of each variety and tried it. He discovered that he only liked walnuts. Fast forward four months. We put out another bowl of mixed nuts (in the shell). Again, Nick shelled each variety and this time exclaimed, "Mom, I like two kinds of nuts, now." He added pecans to his list of likes.

Homeschooling/Learning is like this. As a mom I offer many opportunities each day for learning. When at the library, I choose many genres of reading material, music, videos, magazines, books on tape, games and framed artwork to bring home. As the three weeks go by the kids peruse through this pile, sometimes they find a treasure, other times not. They pull out a book on aliens browse through the pictures and put it back in the pile, not interested this time. Many times they pull the same book out day after day and put it back, still not interested. Then the Aha! moment comes, on day 10 they sit down on the couch with that same book on aliens and beg me to read it. It finally struck a nerve with them. I have to remind myself not to give up the first time, especially when it comes to reading or writing without hesitation. Each day is a new day and our likes and dislikes are always changing. Go with the flow and don't give up.

By the way, Nick is totally interested in aliens. We watched E.T. this afternoon and are in the middle of reading a 10 book pile of extra terrestrial books.