Thursday, June 30, 2011

Homeschool dry run.

So! First homeschool attempt completed. It was...okay. Actually pretty good, I guess. No bloodshed. Minor excitement, on both our parts. Even if, for the rest of the summer, the kids say "no" every time I ask if they want to do it again, it showed me what parts worked and what parts need tweaking, and what parts need more prerequisite work.  Here's what I tried, from my extremely amateur homeschooling mind...

I used the "Goodnight, Moon" book (as suggested by Totally Tots). I split up what would be all my lessons into Bible, Math, Science, History, Language, Art, Music, and Home. Obviously not all of these subjects will apply to every book (unless you're much more creative than I).

Bible: (I was nervous when starting this section, but that's my own nervousness about boldly bringing up spiritual subjects with my kids. That's my own lesson to learn, and God is working on me.) (Preparation: I wrote out the Bible verses, Psalm 4:8, Proverbs 3:24, Psalm 121:3-4.) We talked about how restless the little bunny was, and how long it took him to get to sleep. I asked who never sleeps? My 7yo read the Bible verses. We talked about we can sleep peacefully and not worry because God never sleeps and is always watching over us.

Math: (Preparation: I drew 8 clocks on a piece of paper, without the hands.) We talked about how long it took the bunny to fall asleep, and talked about difference between the first clock and the last. We took turns reading the clocks in the book and drawing the hands in the right places on the paper. This worked even for my 4yo - even though he can't tell time in full, he could tell me where the hands were on the clocks, and I helped him translate that into times. We also wrote the time in digital form next to each clock. (My 2yo even got in on this part by finding the clocks - a favorite item of his - on each page.) After all the clocks were drawn, we talked about how the clocks go up by 10s.

Science: (Preparation: I drew the 8 phases of the moon with their titles: new, crescent waxing, half moon waxing, gibbous waxing, full, gibbous waning, half moon waning, and crescent waning.) We did more "finding" in the book (the part my 4yo was really interested in) to find the moon in each picture, and talked about how it was "rising," moving up in each picture, and that the moon in the book is a full moon. We talked about other ways that the moon looks, and how they have different names for each one, and then I explained the difference between waxing and waning, and how the cycle goes through each one and then starts over.

Language - Vocabulary: (Preparation: I wrote the words "waning," "waxing," and "gibbous" on a page, with simple definitions.) My 7yo read these words and definitions, and we explained them a little further.

Language - Grammar: (Preparation: I wrote out the words room, light, balloon, clocks, kittens, moon, bears, house, chairs, socks, comb, nobody, mouse, brush, mittens, lady, stairs, noises, mush, and air. Below that I wrote the phonics oo, ch, ck, ou, sh, and oi.) We talked about how each letter has its own sound, but when you put two or more letters together, they make a new sound, and those are called phonics. We went through each one and talked about the sound of each letter, but then the new sound of the two letters together. Then they took turns finding words in the list with those phonics.

What Worked
I liked having it all based on one book. I liked having something to refer back to, and something to take all my inspiration from.
The kids really enjoyed drawing the clock hands. They wanted to do more finding of things in each picture.
My 7yo really enjoyed reading anything that needed to be read: the Bible verses and the vocab words.
They loved making the sound of each phonics. It worked out nicely that we had several funny sounding phonics here: oo like a monkey, ch like a train, sh like quiet, and oi like OI!!

What Didn't Work
An actual Bible story would've worked would've given more fodder for discussion and more to work with. However, I understand that not every book will match with a story, and sometimes just Biblical principles are just as worthy of discussion - and worthy of the effort to find the discussion.
My 4yo would need more practice on simply reading clocks...counting by fives, what each space on the clock means. He kept tripping up on the 12 meaning "o'clock" (it worked out that he got both the 7 and 8:00 clocks). Some more ground work would help there.
By science time, they were all getting tired of this activity as a whole, but that is something that I expect, and if we were doing this for school, it's something we'd have to work through and I'd expect them to come to terms with it relatively quickly. We were also sitting on the couch all lazy-like, and if we were doing this for real, we'd at least be at a table, if not some kind of make-shift desks. This would definitely help with focus.
For science and language/vocab, I would come up with some activities for them to do actively (like charting the moon's phases, or drawing their own, and reciting the vocab, or quizzing them on it) rather than just reading. The language/grammar activity of finding the right words was good, but maybe not involved quite enough.

In general, I found that I need a lot more groundwork. We need to go over phonics in general, maybe not starting them as part of a story. When I was in first and second grade, we had giant charts of all the phonics listed that we'd read over and over, and I'd like to find (or make) something like that, as well as some charts of counting by 5s, 10s, 20s, etc. I'd also like to have some clocks posted somewhere that they could practice with, or one of those practice clocks where you can move the hands (wouldn't be hard to find, or make if I had to).

I also found what things worked well for my 4yo (finding things, copying clocks, demonstrating letter sounds) and what things worked well for my 7yo (reading, naming terms she already knew, processing Bible concepts, putting letter sounds together).

But I did see how much less time it would take than a full schoolday, and how I can integrate a bunch of different subjects from one item. And the crowning realization: I've already admitted that my conception of homeschooling being a giant lack of structure was wrong; but not only does homeschooling include structure, it's an absolutely essential part. Whew! Not bad for the first day.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


It's amazing what a thankful post will do for a Wordle collage...

Monday, June 27, 2011

Back to basics.

It's time for some thankfuls. The post-migraine "what a wonderful world" feeling lends itself.

1. I'm thankful, first and foremost, for my kids, who let me sleep another 45 minutes this morning on the couch, covered me with blankets, snuggled with me, watched tv, and got their own cereal so I could let the world stop while my migraine surrendered to my happy migraine medicine. Huzzah!

2. I'm thankful that I didn't feel depressed when I realized again this morning that I forgot to buy laundry detergent on Friday. I haven't totally run out, and school's out so I can go to the store any time I want. No rush. (Yet another thought that echoes my desire to homeschool.)

3. I'm thankful for the tiny prayer that came from my heart saying, "Lord, if it's important, help me remember what I wanted to say until I can get there." I so often think of what I want to say, and then things come up and I can't get there before they disappear. I also often have trouble praying because I can't figure out what I wanted to say. So I'm thankful for this simple, heartfelt prayer.

4. I'm thankful for that post-migraine "what a wonderful world" feeling. I'm thankful for Imitrex.

5. I'm thankful for my feeling, once again (and thankful that it's "once again"), that I have only certain chores that I need to do every day. There are more things that should get done, they are not pre-requisites for living. The other things will get done in their time, and will get done better because I'm not freaking out about them. My husband deserves a more relaxed wife.

6. I'm thankful for my blog, and what it has become (more relaxed, simple thoughts, a lack of urgency to actually reach someone), and for my gorgeous header that I made myself (with lots of help from Wordle), and am so pleased with. I think it looks so professional. And very me.

7. I'm thankful for this passage from the book I'm reading, Just Jane by Nancy Moser, a novel of Jane Austen's life. It goes:
If a bubbling stream forces itself to become a torrent, surely disaster will follow. I am what I am, and though I am still learning this measure and meter of words, I must be true to my nature, and yea, even, my gift. For it is a gift -- from God, if I may be so bold. I say this not to imply great talent, but to indicate my awareness that I have received something beyond my own choosing. Although in essence I realize I can refuse this offering, I also sense that the prudent act, the one that begs to be tinged with sincere gratitude, requires me to do what I can with this gift and offer it back into the void from whence it came. Whether it will prosper and move along, or disappear like morning fog, I do not know. I should not care. For the gift is not truly mine to hold, but mine to use and return. To someone's benefit. I hope.
This is my heart. I am not the best writer. And maybe no one will read it. But such things are not the point. I was given a gift, a desire in my heart to write, so I shall write, whether anyone but God sees it or not. (I tend to talk and write more like Jane Austen when I've been watching or reading her.)

8. I am thankful that, even though my house is in desperate need of attention and picking up, I am not freaking out. It will get done. My kids will help. We will all live to tomorrow.

9. I am thankful for HopefulLeigh's posts about "32 Things To Do Before I'm 32." I often feel boxed in by my kids and my kids' schedule that I never make goals for myself, oh-so-sure that any plans for myself will be thwarted, so why bother. But this summer, I feel more free, and I am blessed with the thought that I might actually be able to do something like that.

10. I am thankful that, every night, I get another chance to go to bed on time.

PS, in #5, those things are 1. time with God, 2. laundry, 3. dishes. The rest is frosting and just moves my house further along to where I want it to ultimately be.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I spread out my hands.

I have GOT to get back into the Bible. A friend of mine on FB posted tonight, "...having to trust God on what He has in store for us... :)" and I thought...yeah. I need to be that automatic with taking my troubles to God. I think my exact response to her was, "I ♥ that you automatically (or it seems, anyway :) ) go straight to trying to trust God for what's coming. I have GOT to do that more...get back to trusting the Source of the future, not just lamenting the now."

Why do I keep forgetting that He's in charge??? Man, I am so good at doing the put-upon act that I could probably even start blaming GOD if I'm not careful!! "Well, God, you know, you're throwing an awful lot of things at could ease up a little..." Wow, Carrie. How 'bout you sit in time-out for a little while and think about what you just said. (Or so I'd probably say to my kids.)

Budget issues. Hobbies. Messy house. Unappreciative kids. Messed-up priorities. Live-in parents and in-laws. All these things have become sources of bitterness for me (something I'm prone to already), when really they should be numbers 1-6 on my worry prayer list.

I get so bogged down in the "how do I do this prayer thing, this turn-everything-over-to-God thing?" that I become a perfectionist about it and end up doing nothing because I can't start out doing it just right. When really, all I have to do is get on my knees next to my bed (although I may even have to give up that pretty picture) and spread out my hands and say, "I give!!! I've got nothing. I'm at the end of my rope. I feel like nothing is going my way; I feel like no one appreciates or respects what I do; I feel like I'm taken for granted. I don't feel like I'm LIVING my life; I feel like my life is simply happening to me. Give me the strength to keep going, to keep doing day after day, when it seems like I'm the only one who cares!!" ("Oh, and p.s., forgive my self-centered attitude.")

There. How hard was that. It flowed, typed pretty easy. When I get down to the bottom of me, I know what I need to pray for. And I'm just shooting myself in the foot by not...simply...doing it. No matter how pretty - or not - it sounds.

The day.

So yesterday was terrible for productivity. The dishes piled up again (although not as badly from doing the real disaster the day before) but I got the kids to pick up some of the living room floor with the promise of "Happy Feet" during dinner (tricky now that we have the dog). And last night, simply because I couldn't leave it there, I cleaned up the last little bit of the floor.

Last night, we finally bought Christmas presents for my niece and nephews. We didn't have the funds at Christmas-time, and while picking up a kiddie pool last night that my MIL wanted to buy but didn't have room in her car for, we found a sale table at Toys'R'Us. Three gifts for $24! We need to give serious thought to doing Christmas at some other time of year when the sales are better. However, on their first day of summer vacation (ours happened last Friday but we're in a different school district), they're staying home with their dad (working from home). So our wrapped gifts will sit on the piano for the day, and we'll try again tomorrow.

Today I'm feeling better (no hit-by-a-truck feeling), but I'm coughing all the time and have zero voice. It has been explained to my children that I will not be repeating things a thousand times; the tolerance meter has gone way down. They will listen and obey the first time. We'll see.

On tap for the day -- Elijah's make-up gymnastics class. Then I need to figure out what's happening with the laundry. I ended up doing me and hubby's laundry yesterday, which is supposed to be the girls' laundry day, but Morgan's laundry (or some of it) was already down here, and Sabrina doesn't have any laundry to wash, so I swapped it. Today I'll run Morgan's load, and the boys' since Elijah has no more clean shorts or shirts as he has peed in all of them. (sigh) Twice a week may not be often enough for his laundry. He's wearing swim shorts to gymnastics. So be it. I know...the obvious answer is simply that he doesn't pee in his underwear, but that's a taller order than it seems. It would take me physically taking him to the bathroom every half hour to make sure he actually pees (an actual issue)...maybe now that I have three kids instead of four, that might actually be possible.

I was thinking last night... I sit down at the computer, and I keep doing Google searches for "Christian farmhouse blogs." Do you know that doesn't really bring up anything? A couple, but for the most part, crunchier than is my goal. I want to sit down and read something about a wide open field, or an encouraging Scripture, or about kids being self-entertaining and creative, or about a nice project to do with the kids, or about a house being open and airy and clean and old and farmhousey. I can't find a blog like that. would seem that I need to WRITE the blog I want to READ. Hmmmmmm......

So at some point I may add random pictures of my attempts of farmhousing my house (or at least the kitchen and bathroom). :)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Clean laundry and pancakes for dinner.

Let's just say, right off, that this post will not help my Wordle pictures. I am a mess.

My head is completely plugged, except for the annoyingly brazen glop that is running down my throat making it hurt. My stomach muscles are non-existent (thank you, three children, and a complete lack of self-discipline) and thus my lower back has decided to spasm again. No bending over for me (sorry, quads). And my feet. are. killing. me, because I was stupid and wore my flip-flops all day yesterday. Not to mention that I NEED NEW SNEAKERS, and I have $21 in our checking account. (Next week isn't looking good either.) I bought these, oh, I don't know, like at least five years ago, and I've simply worn them out. But it's better than nothing. Wearing them, I can bear standing up.

The silver lining is that school is out, and yesterday was a fantastic first-day-of-summer day, given that I do not like much heat, and yesterday there was shade available and a breeze. My oldest has flown back to Nevada to spend the summer with her mom and family there, so the house is a lot quieter. (The silver lining is the quiet, not that she's gone.) And all that's on tap for today is taking a couple bags of trash and the recycling to the dump, and then folding and ridding the living room of A LOT of laundry, which we are blessed to have. (I did manage to find the kitchen sink and counter yesterday.)

At least it's clean and sorted (go, me!). And, per Mr. 4-year-old, pancakes for dinner!

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Return of Captain Wordle.

My first thought when I saw today's Wordle was "oh, dear..." That big ol' word WANT, staring me back in the face. (It's big enough to see plainly even in the thumbnail of the picture on my computer.) Eek. Although...I guess that happens when you do a "selfish" post.

Then...while playing with colors, I saw, like a whisper, "God." Yay. He's getting ever bigger. :)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Frenzied selfishness.

A long time ago, a friend of mine sent me an email forward called "frenzied selfishness" where you're supposed to just go crazy and describe your perfect happy life, everything you truly want (not frivolous "I want everything" kind of stuff, but stuff you really crave). Whereas I've decided I disagree with the premise - God gives me everything I need, and I truly don't desire a great amount of possessions or money; they only bring more problems - we all do have our heart's desires, and every so often, they well up and you feel like just stamping your foot at God a little bit. Here goes.

I want my in-laws out of my house. I want that room back.

I want my OWN house. A farmhouse, if it's not asking too much. With an acre or two. (I've lived all 6 years of my marriage, and truly every year of my life, save college, WITH MY PARENTS. I'm pretty done with that.)

I want to homeschool my kids. All of them. (Except my oldest. She's my stepdaughter; we don't have a good personality mix for me to try to teach her. It wouldn't go well. And she doesn't want me to anyway, so it's all good.)

I want my children to rise up and call me least a little more often. I want more to show for what I'm doing in the house. I want my kids to care about keeping the house clean (or at least their stuff).

I want to be Really Good at something outside of the house; I want someone to think of me as someone really good at something in particular.

I want a dog (but that's happening soon).

I want more kids without feeling guilty about it.

I want to lose weight, look like the person I feel like inside, time to go to the gym, and a level road to go running, or at least for a walk.

And I want a blog that people will read and relate to, and I want to write more often and have it be really good. I want to have something to share.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

More "things"...

Usually when I start out to write on my blog, it's because I thought of something to say. This time, not so much. I just have a feeling.

This moment is a good one. My dear fencing hubby is away, being his fencer self, almost certainly at this very moment dressed in medieval garb and (hopefully) sitting in front of a fire. (It's very wet and rainy today, and he's been cold up there at the campground.) Last summer, he went away to do this for about a week and a half, and the saying "I was a MESS" doesn't even begin to cover the true mess I was. It was a time of painfully (oh, how I hurt!) searching out the answer to the question of just whom - or Whom - I was relying on, putting my trust in, getting my strength from. Answer: It was Hub. I was so, so wrong. And poor Hub! What pressure.

This weekend is shorter, obviously, than a week and a half, but he's done other weekends and I've been more of a mess than I am right now. I'm good. It was a partially lousy day - I can't even begin to describe the whining that I heard, the disobedience, the discontent, the arguing and fussing and fighting - but I'm still good. (If I had a sound clip of choir boys holding a sustained note, I'd insert it here.)

My oldest actually slept in till about 8-something, so the (earlier) morning was quieter with the three littler ones. Then we managed to get grocery shopping done (me and the three smallest; my oldest is currently on crutches for an ouchie foot so she and her ice kicked it on Gram's bed), even though the back door on our new-to-us van decided not to close and so we carpooled with Papa's grocery trip. It was all good.

There were moments of fussing and yelling (this time on my part)...but I take that back. I didn't yell. Oh, I was serious and stern, for sure, but I haven't really yelled in a long time. Months, in fact. (It's something I'm working on.) And when I hit upon a moment where I thought, "Surely, my kids are going to reply to my next 'just a second' with a very appropriate 'but you're ALWAYS on the computer!'," I managed to stop and turn the chair and look them square in the eye with all my attention. No real huge moments of mommy guilt. (Choir boys again.)

And then there were all those pairs of wet underwear. Going pee in the potty just. simply. eludes. my 4 1/2 year old boy. (Someone PLEASE tell me they have the same problem. There are some days I just seriously want to cry for being out of ideas.) I think maybe I'm not accompanying him to the potty enough, I'm being too lazy, I'm not staying consistent with a discipline when he so obviously pees himself out of laziness (he was IN THE BATHROOM, for crying out loud! the potty's RIGHT THERE!!!), I'm too harsh, I'm too soft, on and on and on.................ARRRGGGHHHH!!!! His preschool teachers even feel sorry for me.

But here I am. It's only 9:19; I can still make a decent bedtime (because last night was an epic fail). I have heard sweet hubby's voice this evening, I have chocolate ice cream waiting for me in the freezer, I have a freshly stocked fridge again (it got sketchy there for a while, but praise God! He is faithful), my nearly-2yo boy has slept through the last 4 or 5 nights in a row and I can go to bed with a slightly inflated sense of hope that it might happen again (but I'm not stupid; 100% hope would be silly at this point), and I have all my lovely, new-found...joys? to entertain my thoughts. Hobbies? Interests? That sounds boring. They're just ideas. But they're ideas that make me happy to think about. I've named some before, but I realized some escaped my "Things I Like" list....
~ my developing farmhouse kitchen, even just the one in my head, but I get excited because I do actually have pieces of it in real life!
~ my search for a really inexpensive cabin to take my kids to in August during Hub's next week-and-a-half fencing event, so we can have a little downtime of our own...escape the fishbowl living, if only temporarily.
~ reading mom blogs. I have friends that could share with me thousands of the blogs they read - but they wouldn't be mine, they'd be borrowed. Y'know? And God has brought me - just in my farmhousey searching! - to several wonderful moms that are writing about their farmhousey lives, and I KNOW that God has brought them to me, because all but once they've turned out to like Jesus pretty well, too! And that makes all the difference.
~ my current read, a historical fiction novel about Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her romance wth Robert Browning. An easy read, not to heavy on the language side, and I'm more than halfway through, which is inspiring.

Oh, there must be something else, but I'm not thinking of it now. But what I did come across tonight was the brand-spankin'-new webpage of a dear woman from church who does photography. She takes beautiful pictures, captures children as they are, without "blur" and "sepia"...they're just kids, and even in their sloppiness they look beautiful. The very last picture I saw was her family's boots all lined up and the thought struck me..."I want to take pictures like that." And not just pictures, but PICTURES.

What?? Me?? Well, sure, I love taking pictures. I thought about being a photographer once. (My godmother even bought me a camera bag for college graduation, I think. I majored in television, incidentally, a far cry from the art program.) And I am set up to take pictures for our church's VBS program this year, which I am extremely excited about. I may not be the only one doing so, but the Woman In Charge said I could, which makes my doing it Very Important. And we have a wicked cool camera around here...somewhere...that I now have added motivation to find. But photography in general? That's an ambition that I thought long-since died. Well, maybe just pictures of my kids...we'll see. :)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Wordle strikes again.

I like to do this every once in a while, to see how my blog-thought processes are going. Apparently I've talked a lot about Elijah (he provides good material)...but, I'm very happy to say, that God seems to be getting bigger than previous times I've done this. :)

An attitude of gratefulness.

"Oh, the Lord is good to me..." He has given me a desire of my heart!! And I hadn't even prayed for it yet. (A very bad habit of mine.) I have been led to a handful of wonderful, Christian, some homeschooling, some farmhousey living, seeming-to-be like-minded mom-blogs. (Hyphen-happy!!!!)

For years I have loved writing. For several months I have been searching for some blogs that I would enjoy reading, blogs that were topically-similar to my current interests, and blogs that were - selfishly - ones that my friends hadn't already found, doggonit! I felt the same way about my college: I wanted to go somewhere where none of my friends or people I knew would be. I still, secretly, very teen-ily hope that hubby's job will someday transfer him somewhere so that we'll have to strike out on our own, knowing no one, and start fresh. (Of course, it'll have to be somewhere perfect and beautiful, not too hot, close to the ocean...but I'll let God handle those details.) And so it was with the blogs I wanted to read - I only had recommendations from friends. The blogs were good, of course; the fact that someone else had found them first didn't diminish their worth in any way. But I'm the same way with movies - the more you tell me how good of a movie it is, the less I'll probably like it. I don't like having someone else's opinion first. Unfortunately, the same happened with the new pastor at our old church, who started preaching there while I was away at college. I got TONS of rave reviews about her...and I'm afraid I never truly got on board with her after.

Have you read between the lines up there that my life isn't the way I want it? You're quick. :) My family "duplexes" with my parents. That's a nicer way of saying "lives with." Because we don't live with them. They have the back of the house; we have the front and the upstairs. My hub and I (and by extension, our four children) have never lived "on our own," "in our own place," or any other phrase you'd like to use for "leaving your parents and starting your adult life together." And we started our married life with one child each, which very much added to the no-honeymoon-phase experience.

Then, around a year ago, my in-laws' living situation changed (he was training for a new job, far away; MIL moved in with her mom - big mistake) and she ended up coming to live here, followed about 4 months later by FIL when his far-away good-idea job didn't pan out as hoped. Soooo....we are - on our side of the house - a "family" of 8. Counting my parents, and the whole house-proper: 10. (This poor house...)

So here I launch my idea of a blog of gratitude. I am bitter. I am snarky. I can fall all-too-easily into the "depths of despair," much to the frustration of my husband. I am, I think, prone a little to depression. And I am often jealous. So off I go, in my far from perfect life, to seek out the silver linings (which I happen to be pretty good at finding), the thankfuls, the gratefuls, and - hopefully - the changed attitude. :)