Blatant Self Promotion

Only vaguely related to home schooling, in that most home schoolers are by constitution typically out-of-the-box sorts:

I guest authored a post on The Adventures of a Somewhat Crispy Mama's blog. It's my first guest-post ever. I'd love for you to hop over and comment. The topic was birth options, The Final Installment, and I shared a bit about my experiences with everything from an emergency cesarean to home birth.


The End of February

It was a busy week with lots of irons in the fire.
  • I worked on basic politeness issues with my 2 yo this week. He was not as excited about this as I was.
  • My 3 yo learned to dress himself from head to toes. Yes, I know he should have been doing this for a long time. Somehow with his hospitalizations last year I started babying him a bit too much. After some initial resistance he's very excited about his new independence.
  • 8 yo worked on math drills with basic facts. I'm very unhappy with the math curriculums for his age group so I've decided to strike out on my own. He's working on subtracting double and triple digits, time and money right now. I've just been writing problems for him in a composition notebook each day.
  • 10 yo continued her work on the Beatitudes and did a lot of reading and drawing this week.
  • 13 yo squeaked by with the minimum of work this week. I foresee gnashing of teeth on Monday morning when she has to take her tests and turn in assignments. She was the photographer at her brother's video shoot. Her pictures turned out fabulous and she blogged a few of them.
  • 15 yo was given "Superior" marking at her piano jury on Saturday. She was extremely pleased. Thankfully her teacher was hard on her during this week's lesson- and she has enough homework that she'll have no time for a big head. I foresee equal gnashing of teeth this weekend because she and her big brother have to perform a scene from Hamlet on Tuesday in front of her tutorial classmates; yet neither have their lines memorized as of yet.
  • 17 yo entered Full Moon Film Festival. He spent the week writing a script, organizing a group of friends, and shooting the video. I'm praying he wins- scholarship money is always welcome! He also had me cut his hair, but only one side. He wanted to win a stupid hair contest. I think he did.

MckLinky Blog Hop


Cold Rainy Indoor Days

Cold days with drizzly sleet for days on end make for a cranky mommy and hyper kids. Here are few things we do to get the wiggles out.

Some are loud:

House Tipping- You and the kiddos pretend that the house is a boat and that it is tipping over in a storm. This game involves a lot of rolling around on the floor, grabbing onto siblings and furniture. Not for the faint-hearted. I suggest starting the game and then pouring a cup of coffee and sitting in another room, preferably eating chocolate.

Burrito Babies- Take your children's comforters and roll your children up in them. Teen-aged big brothers especial enjoy facilitating the rolling.

Then let the races begin.

If you need a quieter and more contained activity and you don't mind sweeping, find tweezers,

and fill muffin tins with corn or beans. I think this only works if you use beat-up muffin tins; but maybe that's just because all my muffin tins are beat-up.

If tweezers are too hard, weird looking scoops are fun too.

Old medicine droppers make for some easy to contain water play. My 8 yo likes me to add food coloring and then he gets out an old science set of beakers to play "Mad Scientist."

Of course there's always dress-up, boy style. Just call him Sir Daniel Boone.

It's some of what Works For Me on Wednesday or any other rainy day.


No School

Monday morning I realized we had not had a break in a long time. Normally I try to take a break about every 6 weeks. Sooo, after looking at the calendar and realizing that:
  • I needed to spend some time on taxes.
  • We had 3 different pediatrician's office visits scheduled.
  • My 15 yo needed extra practice for her piano jury on Saturday.

Though the older teens still have tutorial, we took the week off our regular school work; one of many reasons I love to home school. I love how our family can flex and roll with schedules.

The end result is my children have done as little this week as is humanly possible. I have a house full of eating/reading/movie-watching sloths. Except of course for my toddlers. My 3 yo spent the week asking as many questions as is possible to ask. The 2 yo employed his time climbing on top of and getting into everything.

Between "slothing" we did have time for some sofa cushion gymnastics.

Ready, Steady-


All in all, I'm ready for school to start again next week.


Teen Interests

Something I never considered when I started this journey was how different all my children's interests would be. I also never knew how many odd opportunities there are for almost every interest.

For instance my 17 year old is into production: editing and filming shorts and creating special effects. One of his credits this year is for "Distributive Education." He works free-lance for some local production companies in various roles- assistant fetching coffee, pushing a camera man around on a dolly, grip, rough editing, etc. He's learning tons as well as earning money. He has entered a film festival, also as part of his credit requirement; he has to write, shoot, and edit a short about some event from United States history.

My 15 year old loves piano- well she just loves music period. We happen to live close to a university that has a pre-college program. I found out last year that they offer generous scholarships for their pre-college students. She had to go through a try-out, but was able to get a scholarship for wonderful classes. She's been involved in a home school band that provided her with a tuba and plays at the State Capital each year.

My 13 year old loves to socialize. We are part of a free P.E. co-op that is run by the teens. They get their P.E. credits, but more importantly they have a blast. She used to have a knitting club. Currently she has a friend that has organized a monthly group that gets together at a local bookstore. The group has a very serious life-skills sort of name; mostly they just chat and drink cappuccino.

What I've discovered is that there are groups for almost every interest and if there isn't already a group they are easy to form. If your child is competitive there are also competitions for almost every interest. I need to keep thinking outside the box for the rest of my children. I have an artist just a few years away from teen-dom.

Cringe Test

Every once in a while I find it useful, if sometimes painful, to do a little testing on my family. I'll stand out of sight and call a child's name and watch for their reaction. Do they look up with an open expression and try to find out why I'm calling, or do they sink down and sigh before answering? Worst of all, do they sink down and feign deafness while pretending to be in Morocco?

Sad to say, I have a nag/fuss tendency. It seems related to how well I'm doing at being organized and self-disciplined. When I'm in a over-all good routine, it means that chores and schooling responsibilities are being accomplished, and my children know what is expected of them and when. It means they know when they have time for themselves. It means that I have the time and energy to keep up a spirit of fellowship and camaraderie with my children. Most of all it means that if I call someone- the underlying assumption is that my call might be a pleasant and welcome interruption.

When I'm in a nag/fuss cycle the assumption is that having one's name called means an interruption of one's current employment for an unspecified period of hassle. I'm pretty sure the thought process is something along the lines of, "Ughh, she's calling my name; I must evade capture."

I can always tell with my Cringe Test how well I'm doing in the family-fellowship department. When I fail the test, meaning my children cringe when called, it's time to remember to organize myself, lay off the family. Pray, prioritize. I need to pull out a deck of cards and play some games, lighten-up and enjoy my children.

Is it ethical to perform psychological testing on subjects without signed consent forms? Bah, motherhood is all about stealth, everything, from green veggies snuck into spaghetti sauce to stealth Cringe Testing.

I originally wrote this for my general blog, but I got to thinking how passing the cringe test is even more important if you are the mom and the teacher.
It Works-For-Me-Wednesday, and on other days.



My 2 year old worked very hard this week on Conservation of Liquid Quantity. Yes, that's what he called it. He's been studying Piaget.

The containers have to be small for his little hands, I figured they might as well be pretty.

My 13 year old did a lot of reading aloud to the 10 and 8 year olds from one of her favorite history books- Joan of Arc, by Diane Stanely. If you have not discovered Diane Stanely's history books you need to check your library. They are well written and beautifully illustrated.

My 15 year old was challenged by her piano teacher to really concentrate this week for an upcoming jury. It's always a challenge for her to find time to practice when the house is quiet so that she can really hear. Actually, that is more a challenge for me; I have to better facilitate that. Bad mom.

I took too long getting dressed one morning. A tent city went up.

My 15 year old read an essay titled, Of Adversity, by Francis Bacon and wrote this in her quote book:
"The virtue of prosperity is temperance; the virtue of adversity is fortitude..... Certainly virtue is like precious odors, most fragrant when they are incensed or crushed: for prosperity doth best discover vice, but adversity doth best discover virtue."


Children and Chores

I've discovered a few things over the years about my large family and chore-doing. Namely, keep it simple and work together.

For a long time when my kids were younger I was on the search for the perfect system of organizing chores. Perfect as defined by an eternally spotless house, and cheerful children that did all jobs flawlessly and without reminders. Sort of like human Roombas.

I think I also visualized better drapes and antique carpets whenever I devised a new chore system- but I have a vivid imagination that defies logic.

To get to Perfect I'd often draw up complicated schedules, rotating work for fairness and excitement. It would generally involve an equally complicated system of keeping track of whether or not the work was done- as if I could ascertain bathroom cleanliness only from a peg turned to "Clean".

What I've found that works for our family is working together 3 times a day in concentrated bursts: after breakfast, before lunch and before dinner. Three times a day we put in music and dance around doing general clean-up and chores with me as a participating Mistress of Novices. It is amazing how clean we can get the house in about 20 minutes with everyone (even the babies) dancing about picking-up, putting away, sweeping, and vacuuming all at the same time. It's loud but effective. Sometimes fun, sometimes utilitarian.

As for individual chores, like bathrooms and dishes and laundry, etc. I split those up and only change assignments every 3- 6 months. Why change out every week? It makes it hard to remember whose turn is up. It means no one does anything long enough to have ownership of their work- or to really learn to do anything well.

We have generous escape clauses too. If someone really hates a chore- but is doing a good job at it, I'll switch things around. The beauty of an uncomplicated system is that as your children get older and busier out of the home, everyone is used to adjusting. It's a mindset of, "we work together because we are a family", not the mindset of, "I don't have to do that because it's not on my chart."

Right now, this is what works for us. Next year? My lawn-mowing son goes to college; we'll see.



Generation Gap and Walrus Ears

I was reading Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear, by Eric Carle to my Littles when the 3 yo asked about flamingo ears. We chatted about bird ears for a while. When we got to the walrus page he had similar questions, plus he wanted a detailed explanation of what a walrus ear looked like.

I've read this book dozens of times over the years. If I include the number of times I read it when I taught preschool the number triples, at least. Yet, I had no idea what a walrus ear might look like.

So off we trotted to my computer to do a search. At Marine Science is an article full of walrus pictures. Including walrus ears.

It hit me as we left the computer that when my 18 yo was a baby we didn 't even own a computer, and even if we had, the internet was not what it is today. If my 18 yo had asked about walrus ears I would have had to: remember the question and gone to the library to look up a book with a good picture.

My oldest child is in a different generation than my youngest two children. So strange, I knew that sippy cup technology had changed from first baby to seventh baby but I never thought about how much the world itself had changed.


An Average Morning

I often get overwhelmed with the "perfection" of printed home school schedules. It's easy to start thinking that bumps only occur in my own house, and that bumps mean failure. I thought I'd jot down an outline of an average morning in my home and school as things occurred. I picked a day that I didn't have anything momentous scheduled- just a humdrum rainy February day with 7 children.

Here are my notes on half of a school day, a morning slightly off schedule and started late:
  • 5:30 A.M. 2 year old and I get up to make Daddy coffee before Daddy has to leave on a work trip.
  • 6:00 A.M. First breakfast and medicines. I only had about 5 hours sleep and need to get some paperwork (ugh) and some blogging (yeah) finished. I'm diametrically opposed to t.v. but I put in the Wizard of Oz for the 2 year old and 3 year old to watch anyway. I field questions from the Littles as I work to assuage my guilt.
  • 7:30 A.M. I read a huge stack of picture books to 2 yo, 3 yo and a sleepy 8 yo. The 2 yo is disgruntled that one of the characters shares his name.
  • 8:00 A.M. Time for second breakfast with the rest of the family. 13 yo makes cocoa and I cook oatmeal. I sneak M&M's, no one notices.
  • 8:30 A.M. The three youngest boys make a massive tent in the living room. Teen daughters check in on Facebook. People start chores. I realize that 17 yo son is still asleep- he stayed up late working on a school project so I leave him be.
  • 9:30 A.M. 15 yo starts baking bread. 13 yo and 10 yo start on Math-U-See assignments and 8 yo starts doing Math-It and then a math sheet I just made up. 3 yo is exhausted and parks his body on my lap to rest, it's going to be a low energy day for him. We rock and cuddle and he sips milk. I sip coffee. 2 yo joins us, my heart is full.
  • 10:00 A.M. 8 yo is finished with math. I tell him if he will pickup all the spilt pennies from the dining room he can have them. He takes me up on it and decides to add it to his piggy bank and count all his change: $6.86 worth. Littles get their penny collections out and count too.
  • 10:20 A.M. Littles get bored and put away their pennies then work together moving about 30 books into the tent. I can hear them chatting. 13 yo moves on to Aplologia science while 10 yo moves on to Ace Paces science and social studies. 15 yo is finishing up The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. 17 yo has risen from the dead and is finishing up his chores.
  • 10:30 A.M. Littles get in a fight, 15 yo takes them to another room to build with blocks while she reads. I knead bread into loaves and start soup while 13 yo narrates to me about her science chapter. Next, 10 yo does globe work with me, while 8 yo draws mazes. After I finish globe work 8 yo starts on his reading and handwriting with me.
  • 10:55 A.M. 10 yo annoys 13 yo, 13 yo annoys 10 yo. 17 yo pitches a story idea to me about time travel and 13 yo leaves to work on her blog. 2 yo comes out with his hair done in a fake mohawk. Snack time for Littles, I'm caught eating some M&M's but I'm unrepentant and I don't share.
  • 11:20 A.M. 17 yo is working on a Hamlet assignment. I rock 2 yo who is crying because he fell down, while 15 yo serenades us with her guitar. 3 yo is picking up a jigsaw puzzle as he listens to the guitar. 10 yo does copy work from the Beatitudes. I simultaneously check the work of several children.
  • 11:40 A.M. 8 yo finishes his work and takes off to play in tent with and 3 yo. 15 yo leaves to do Aplologia biology, 10 yo starts reading a book about horses by Marguerite Henry. I leave to finish lunch and sneak more M&M's with 2 yo asleep on my shoulder.
  • 12:20 A.M. We break from schoolwork to enjoy lunch.
It turned out to be a morning full of bumps, a morning that barely matches my personal home school schedule- but it was a good morning nonetheless; full of conversation, fellowship, and thinking.

Linked to the Weekly Wrap-Up at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.


Memory Work, Gentle Style

For years I watched my older children memorize a short memory verse, handed out on a little strip of paper each Sunday, just to get the treat and/or to not be embarrassed in front of their Sunday school class. What I particularly noticed was that they never remembered the verse for more than the required day of recital.

One semester we attended a Community Bible Study that had classes for home schooled children. Their teacher had them memorize all of Matthew 28 in that short semester. We never "worked" on it at home. The teacher read it to the children; they spent time understanding it, and then the children simply recited it all together once or twice each week with the teacher.

In my opinion it stuck because it was a story in context. Not a bunch of unrelated and truncated "memory verses".

So I started experimenting at home with various bits of memory work. With my Littles I found that if I read the same poem each morning out loud for a semester- even if the poem is long and the language complex; my children end up memorizing the poem without conscious effort.

Scripture- it doesn't seem to matter how long the passage is. If the passage being memorized is not butchered to make it "easier" and if it is a complete thought or story in itself, all I have to do is recite the passage out-loud with my children consistently and over time. It may take weeks or months even; but I have been amazed at what they can memorize and retain.

It makes total sense, anything you hear repeatedly seems to stick in your head. Especially if the language is rich or well cadenced. After all, it's the principle commercial jingles are based on- Memory work, gentle and insidious style.