Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Week 21 ~ A Day in the Life

I thought I would join in and do a Day in the Life for the Simple Homeschool link up. We are in our 14th year of homeschooling. Our oldest graduated from our homeschool a few years ago and lives at home. Because he suffered several heart attacks and loss of oxygen to his brain in infancy, he has traumatic brain injuries (TBI). We do our best to keep his life full with new opportunities and help him reach his highest potential. Our second set of kids are 12, 10 and 9. The two middle kids are adopted and have a host of special needs that keep us very busy with therapies and therapeutic parenting. Every day is different but one thing remains the same. I am always taking the emotional temperature of my family and trying to keep us on a smooth and loving path. This means that some days ... in fact, most days ... I need to make many adjustments to keep the peace.

My ideal homeschool day would be cuddling on the couch with my kiddos and reading them tons of great books. We would all drink tea or hot chocolate and get lost in the world of history and literature. This way of homeschooling worked great for my oldest, but my second set of children views the ideal homeschool day differently. Their ideal day is filled with activity, science experiments (especially ones with impressive chemical reactions) and math games. They enjoy a great story, but only if they are drawing it (while I read), building it with Lego blocks or listening to it in the car. We strive every day to reach a happy balance. Here is a day in our life ....

6:30 am ~ Is it really time to get up? I pull myself out of bed and get freshened up. I catch the news and pack my husband some leftovers for lunch. I start making breakfast. This morning is easy with everyone having yogurt with fruit and granola in it. Tom Sawyer is allergic to grains and does not get the granola. I sit down to eat breakfast and check some blogs. 

8:00 am ~ Everyone is awake now and eating breakfast. They are all in a different state of being dressed. I start doing laundry. I make stacks of wet laundry baskets to go to the dryers at the laundromat later in the day. I also organize our "classroom" (aka the dining room) in preparation for the day. The kids are taking 30 minute turns on the computer. They have found a free download for PAC MAN and are squealing while they try to avoid the ghosts.

8:30 am ~ We have an early morning vet appointment, so our day is starting off with an interruption. I oversee everyone's chores. Tim (22) walks the dog; Goldilocks (12) sweeps the kitchen, dining room and hallway; Tom Sawyer (10) empties the dishwasher; and Little Red Riding Hood (9) makes all the beds. Our goal is to have a reasonably clean house. (However, I would not advise checking the door frames with white gloves.)

9:00 am ~ We pull into the veterinarian's parking lot just on time. Thank goodness it is only a mile from our home! Boomer is not at all happy about his check up and becomes increasingly less happy when they clip his nails. Actually, he pitches a fit, cries out with pitiful whines, and is held down by three vet techs. In the fray, unfortunately, the quick of three of his claws get cut and start to bleed. He is usually a very well-behaved dog, but he has a real problem with his nails being touched. By now we are all very stressed, and the family's emotional temperature is running high. We had planned on going to the library, but it is obvious to me that we need to go home instead and regroup around the safety of our dining room table.

10 :15 am ~ We return home to discover the men have returned to finish cutting down a rotten tree in our yard. I attempt to have the kids recite and review their 170 spelling words from level one of All About Spelling, but it is obvious that I am not going to be able to compete with the chainsaw noise and excitement of the pending fall of the tree outside our dining room window. I decide to let them stand at the window while we talk about how to cut down a tree, power tool safety, and general construction safety. Finally, there is a magnificent crash and recess is called to go climb on the tree. Feeling a little discouraged that we haven't accomplished much schooling yet, I give myself a little pep talk. After all, watching a tree come down is not a common experience. I remind myself that learning is always going on, even if it is not the way I planned it.

11:15 am ~ Everyone is back in and around the table. We begin math. Two of them do worksheets while the third does Teaching Textbooks on the computer. Sometimes they all do Teaching Textbooks, one right after another. However, that takes a long time, and I want to get through more subjects than math today. We move on to reading two chapters of Life of Fred: Butterflies. We love these books. They cover so much more than math. Today the focus is on geography (specifically the states). The states are a bit of a struggle for some of mine, so I decide to have them put together the U.S.A. puzzle and identify the states mentioned in the two chapters. This is a well received activity and the family temperature is returning to normal. We may save this day yet!

Then I read the kids two chapters from the book, The Long Winter. One child has to bellow about how we still have not received any snow this year (in fact, we are expecting a surpising high of 68 degrees today). Everyone settles down to Lego building and drawing while I read. After two chapters, I call out spelling words while making lunch. The kids practice their spelling words. We are having a Spelling Bee on Friday, and everyone is looking forward to earning small prizes.

12:30 pm ~ We have lunch and silent reading time. Most everyone is reading comic books. I wish they were reading something with more substance, but today I am content they are all reading while eating. We finish up and pack up to leave for the afternoon. 

1:10 pm ~ I get Timothy to his college class late again. The community college offers a special needs program for TBI students, and he is doing well in the program. Luckily, I can see one of the mobility buses is still dropping off students, so he won't be the only one arriving a bit late.

1:30 pm ~ I drop Goldilocks off at Homeschool Choir and the wet clothes off at the laundromat. Then I take the remaining two kids to the park. They spend the next hour running around a baseball field, swinging, climbing and studying the water in the creek. I attempt to fix the camera that is refusing to take pictures for me.

2:45 pm ~ We pick up the laundry, get Goldilocks and head home. Once there, I start dinner prep, check email, call the lawyer about the land adjoining our property that we are closing on this week, arrange a room at Ronald McDonald House for a future out-of-town doctor appointment, talk to my Mom on the phone, and clear school off the dining table. The kids have play time in their own rooms. I keep them separated to avoid sibling strife while I am on the phone.

4:00 pm ~ I head back out with kids in tow to pick up Tim from college. As we have on all of our car trips today, we listen to the audiobook, Al Capone Shines My Shoes, which was checked out of the library. The story is getting very exciting, and we are filled with suspense as to what will happen next.

4:30 pm ~ I am back home again and make dinner as fast I can. We are having a simple dinner tonight ~ homemade hash browns, organic hot dogs and spinach/apple salad. We eat while my husband talks to my Dad on the phone about how to fix the camera. Hooray, he gets it fixed, and I can take it with me to aerial arts tonight. We do not usually eat on the fly like this. Tuesdays are probably our most heavily scheduled day.

5:30 pm ~ The girls and I arrive at aerial arts just on time. This is my one and a half hours to relax. I spend the time taking pictures of the girls, reading my book and talking to the other Moms about how none of us were ever as flexible and skinny as the teachers. LOL!

7:15 pm ~ We are home. We enjoy a snack of cheese and apples. The girls take a bath while my husband reads to Tom Sawyer. The children are in bed by 8:45 and two are asleep. Another busy day is complete. I am so thankful for the freedom to homeschool. It is such a blessing to our family.

Each day varies...for instance this week alone we went to a play on the civil war, went to dance classes, had one day at home with lots of reading and cooking, and another day with a three hour doctor appointment and less than an hour's worth of school. I love how we have so many options and freedom to do what is the priority each day!

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, January 25, 2013

Week 20 ~ Friday Wrap-Up

On My Mind ~ This week flew by. It was a good week. I am totally engrossed in the book, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.  I find it has good research and many of the facts ring true in my family's life. We are already eating this way to some degree (organic, very few grains, lots of whole foods). We will be implementing more of her ideas in the coming months, although I don't think we will be moving to raw milk. However, we may drop milk (but not dairy) from our diet altogether. We already are eating raw cheese and whole milk yogurt. I plan on learning how to make yogurt very soon. We are planning on getting chickens in the spring and having cage-free, pasture-fed eggs.

Our Field Trip ~ We went to the Nasher Museum to see the Cone Sister exhibit and visit the Duke Gardens. I talk more about it here. We loved seeing close up so many Matisse and Picasso works of art!

Science ~ Our ants finally arrived. We are having so much fun watching them dig their new home. They sure are busy creatures. Hopefully, they will inspire my children to clean their rooms more often, ha ha!

Literature ~ We are working our way through Laura Ingalls' book, The Long Winter, and doing projects to go along with the book. I will be posting about it when we are done. We are also enjoying the audiobook, Al Capone Shines My Shoes, in the car. It is a great book that keeps us on the edge of our seats.

The Three R's ~ We finished Level 1 of All About Spelling this week. They all liked it very much. It was easy for two of my kids but a real struggle for one. I will be moving all of them on to Level 2. Math is going well and I need to order the next level of Teaching Textbooks. I am waiting for all of them to have their multiplication tables down pat just a bit better. I am requiring a short paper from each child each week now. This involves much whining from Tom Sawyer. Nonetheless, I am seeing improvements already in week three of this new technique.

Charity Work ~ We are well on the way with our project to do 26 acts of kindness in remembrance of the Newtown tragedy. I will be posting about this in a week or two when we are done.

In Other News ~ There is a small portion of our land that looked like it was ours, but alas was mistakenly left out of the foreclosure. It still belongs to the previous owner. However, the city is about to take it because she has not paid taxes on it in a few years. Fortunately, she has agreed to sell it to us, and we are trying to jump through all the hoops with the lawyer before the 1st of February (the date when the city says it will take the land). Please pray that this all goes well, and we get the land before the government does. Thank you! We will be paying the back taxes in the process of buying the land.

I am joining Homegrown Learners.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Nasher Museum ~ Our Study of Matisse

We made the trek to Durham this week to see the exhibit of post-impressionism art collected by the Baltimore ladies, the Cone sisters. It is visiting the Nasher Museum, part of Duke University. This is an excellent exhibit, and I encourage anyone who is near the Nasher Museum to go see it before the exhibit leaves in mid-February. We were able to see works by Matisse, Cezanne, Picasso, Renoir, Van Gogh and Gauguin. It is not every day that you are able to find so many famous artists in one place. The works were not the most famous representations of the artists, but they were recognizable in each artist's style.

I was particularly pleased with my children's knowledge when we entered one room that had three works of art on the wall. I asked the children to pick the Picasso (his Blue Period), the Van Gogh and the Gauguin. They got them all with a simple glance around the room. It is always nice to see lessons learned and absorbed! I was also pleased to see my children showing interest in the works of art. There were three other children at the exhibit while we were there. One child sat the entire time on a bench playing with his hand-held computer game; another was walking along after his parents looking at the floor; and the third was trying not to fall asleep on a bench (since the guard said he could lie down). I thought it was very sad to see their lack of interest.

However, children are only going to learn to appreciate art if it is made fun and interesting for them. My kids still love the game I taught them when they were toddlers. Yes, they have been going to art galleries for that long. As we enter each room, I ask the kids to tell me their favorite work of art in that room. It motivates them to slow down and look at each work of art. Children love to share their opinions, and this is a great way to open a dialogue with them. Children also love gift shops. Art museum gifts shops are often great places to pick up art activities and lovely children's books.
Goldilocks was with us, too ... but missed being in this photo.

After four hours in the car and two hours in the museum, the kids were in need of an activity to burn off energy. We went to the Duke gardens and had a lovely walk through the Japanese gardens there. I look forward to going back and exploring the rest of the gardens another time.

We took Boomer with us. He did great hanging out in the car while we were in the museum.

We then caught a bite to eat and headed home. It was a great trip. We hope to do more long day trips this coming year.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, January 18, 2013

Week 19 ~ Welcome Back, Sun!

I am so glad to see the sun again.  It has rained steadily since last Saturday. Then we were promised snow ~ 100% chance! However, all we got was 2 more inches of rain ... bringing our grand total to 7 inches in six days. I have spent the week fighting to keep the mud out, the kids calm and engaged and convince the dog that he really could survive a little bit of rain ~ REALLY! We ended up having a great week.

Science ~ I realized that we did not get to do much science last quarter. I am making a real effort to get more science done this quarter. Math and science are Little Red Riding Hood's and Tom Sawyer's favorite subjects. This week we did some water experiments to learn the difference between hydrophilic and hydrophobic.

We also studied the medicinal uses of ginger. We made ginger water, ginger ale, and did ginger foot soaks.  

Poetry Tea ~  We enjoyed our second quarter poetry tea this week. I wrote more about it here.

On The Home front ~ We are almost done with this round of renovations to our home. There is more to do, but we are running short on money. Still, we got lots done. This week nine windows were replaced. We plan to do the rest as soon as we can. However, a new roof will probably have to come first. Why do we always buy houses with great "bones" that have been neglected for years?!

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real ~ A Poetry Tea

We had our second quarter poetry tea this week. My kids love having tea and using special tableware.  They are not always thrilled with poetry. However, poetry is always fun with tea, cakes, tea cups and a fancy tablecloth.

PRETTY ~ We enjoyed this poetry tea during lunch time. We had bacon, cheese, celery, carrots, apples, french fries, grain-free Blondies, chocolate chips and gluten-free vanilla wafers. We also had three kinds of tea! We used tiny tea cups so the kids could have many cups of tea.

HAPPY ~ What a happy time we had together sharing tea, conversation and poems.

FUNNY ~ My funny boy loved performing for us. He is such a funny character.

REAL ~ I love filling my children with a "moral diet". I try to do this in every activity I do with them.  A poetry tea is a perfect time to read them lovely little moral poems. This year I am using an Anthology of poems published by Child Craft in 1949. I love the illustrations and messages in the poems.

an excerpt by Nancy Byrd

When young Melissa sweeps a room
I vow she dances with the broom!

She curtsies in a corner brightly
And leads her partner forth politely.

Then up and down in jigs and reels
With gold dust flying at their heels,

They caper. With a whirl or two
They make the wainscot shine like new!

an excerpt by Laura E. Richard

Such a plashing! Such a dashing!
Will it e'er be dry again?
Down the gutter rolls a flood,
And the crossings deep in mud;
And the puddles! oh, the puddles
Are a sight to stir one's blood!

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

10 Lessons on Henri Matisse

We spent our 18th week of school learning about Henri Matisse. The kids loved this artist because he used several techniques ~ painting and cut outs. After we finished the 3R's each day, we did different art activities.
  1. We read the books, Matisse the King of Color, Weekend With Matisse, Famous Artists Matisse, and Henri Matisse Drawing With Scissors.
  2. We enjoyed the Matisse Art Activity Pack, which had lovely stencils to help with our cut outs.
  3. We watched a library video on Matisse.
  4. The children wrote a nine sentence paragraph on what they learned about Matisse.
  5. We watched this You Tube video slide show. 
  6. We did picture studies of "The Romanian Blouse", "Icarus", and "The Horse".
  7. We maintained our art notebooks.
  8. We made story color collages on our windows. This idea was adapted by Pinterest ideas and the book Discovering Great Artists. We used tissue paper with watered down Mod Podge.
  9. We made several cut outs and put them up on our walls to enjoy.
  10. We plan to go to the Nasher Museum in the next few weeks to see a wonderful exhibit of many modern masters, including Matisse.
From notebook on artist:

Story collages we put up on our window:
I am joining Ten Tuesday at ManyLittle Blessings.

Blessings, Dawn

    Friday, January 11, 2013

    A Day in the Life ~ The Day After Chaos

    Yesterday was a day that was just hard! Everything was difficult; the kids were rowdy; I felt a bit under the weather and multiple things went wrong. The day ended on a high note of chaos with one child flooding the bathroom, which leaked into the basement, and another child flooding the dishwasher, which also flooded the basement and loosened ceiling tiles. Can you say, "MOMMY NOT HAPPY"?! The dishwasher incident was because Goldilocks thought she would make the dishes extra clean by putting in two dishwasher detergent blocks and 90% of a bottle of the dish cleaning soap. There were bubbles across the kitchen and dining room! To say the least, we started today with no clean towels, soaking wet throw rugs, a sink full of dishes in different states of cleanliness, a dismantled dishwasher, and furniture moved because of flooding. Then there is the reality that most of our light fixtures are going in today (which will be noisy, messy and add its own brand of chaos to our lives). I am very excited about having lights throughout the house -- the candlelight dinners were sweet, but it was getting a little old.

    My goals for today are to do some light schooling, be on hand to answer questions of the work men, keep line of sight of my girl who needs structure so very much, get Tim to and from his volunteer job, get the kids to dance class and do many, many loads of laundry.

    7:00 am ~ The look of my kitchen does not cheer me. It will take strength to get through today.

    8:00 am ~ The work men arrive. I am reminded that I did not buy a ceiling fan for the kitchen and they need it by lunch time. Within a few hours almost every room has ladders, displaced furniture, sawdust and fancy tools strewn about. I am not complaining, though. We knew it would take a lot of work to pull this home up to snuff. Buying a foreclosure is not for the faint of heart. I am delighted to have lights again ... now, if I could just pick a paint color and paint all the cabinet doors and get them back up in the kitchen.

    9:00 am ~ We drop Timothy off  at his volunteer job and return home. Since everyone is still stressed out from the day before and tension is still high, I decide to take the kids and dogs on a long walk. 

    10:00 am ~ We return home and settle down to some light schooling. We are studying the artist Henri Matisse this week. The kids did a picture study and filled in their art workbooks with a new picture study worksheet (art). Next, they took turns reading with me, doing language art workbook pages or playing multiplication games on the computer (the three R's). We finish off school for today with group time. We learn three new vocabulary words from the book, In a Word, practiced our new telephone number and worked on the next lesson in our special needs social skills book, Social Stories.

    12:00 pm ~ We head out to buy the ceiling fan. Since the kitchen has only improved a little bit since 7:00 am and there are now tarps all over the counters, I decide to feed everyone out on the road. Due to our son's food allergies, we have limited places where we can eat out. I decide on Zoe's and enjoy a healthy lunch.

    1:30 pm ~ We return home and everyone works on hanging the laundry out to dry. It's been about a year that we've been without a dryer. It is such a blessing that the day is warm and I hang three loads out.

    2:00 pm ~ We pick up Tim and return home to finish the laundry. The kids play outside. After an hour of play, we get ready to go to dance class. 

    4:00 pm ~ Tom Sawyer and Little Red Riding Hood are in ballet class while Goldilocks waits through the first hour for her class, modern dance,


    6:00 pm ~ We pick up our FREE kid's meals at the local health food supermarket and return home for a picnic in the dark. (You see, the kids had made a fort during play time and want to eat by candlelight outside.) Maybe tomorrow I will get to eat by electric light inside the house! LOL!!

    The evening is spent playing a quick board game with the kids and cleaning up the kitchen.  I am happy to have it back to manageable levels.

    8:00 pm ~ Oh, oh! I don't believe it -- yet ANOTHER flood! Little Red Riding Hood spills a dishpan of water in the bathroom, and water is leaking down all over the tools and my dh's dress shirts in the basement! Tomorrow we will have to seriously look at caulking the bathrooms!

     Blessings, Dawn

    Friday, January 4, 2013

    Friday Wrap-Up ~ So Blessed!

    On My Mind ~ 2012 was filled with so many blessings. It almost feels like too much. I am not used to things going as smoothly as they did (of course, there were all kinds of hiccups). We start off 2013 with a fresh, new, SAFE neighborhood, new to us minivan, loving relatives, strong marriage and children that are growing healthier and stronger each day. Yet, I feel like a dark cloud is just over the horizon.  Perhaps it is just that I have been so abundantly blessed recently that it doesn't feel fair. Maybe it is because our friends and family are taking to their beds with this flu epidemic, or the horrors of the final days of 2012 committed upon our nation's children, or the realization of some big financial expenditures still looming in our immediate future. I must stay in the present and just enjoy the blessings that we are experiencing. We will be cared for ... All shall be well!

    Out of the Home Classes ~ We are rewarding the children for all of their hard work during the move by allowing them to take an extra dance class for the spring semester.  Tom Sawyer is taking Ballet 2, in addition to his usual boy theater/dance class. He is excited about it and likes the teacher, even though he thinks bar work is boring. Tom Sawyer and Little Red Riding Hood are doing well in the same class together. She is helping him catch up on different moves at home. The girls are adding an aerial arts class to their dance schedule. We will be skipping choir this spring.

    One Word ~ In years past we have picked a word to focus on for the year. This year it is two words ~ DO LESS. This is going to be a huge struggle for me. However, I think much of the friction in our family is due to constantly rushing and trying to jump through too many hoops. Sometimes everything seems like a priority. This year I am looking at the master list each night and picking the five most important things for the next day (beyond meals, love and chores). If I get through those five things and there still is time left, I can look at the master list and pick something else to do. Otherwise, JUST 5 THINGS!

    Goldilocks Is 12 ~ How did this girl of mine get to be 12?! She enjoyed her birthday. I think she loved best getting a new bike and going out for a manicure. (She picked a very bright blue nail polish!) We also went to the local ceramic painting place and she painted a dog dish for our dog, Lady. I'm looking forward to seeing the final project when it is fired in the kiln.

    Material Blessings ~ This next section is for the out-of-town relatives who want to see what is being done in our new home. Here is the library (living room) that is on the main floor. The room is 90% done. 

    If you look carefully in the top picture, you can see where there used to be a doorway to Tim's room. It is now a wall that gave us all more space for books!!

    The next room is the family room in the basement. This room has a new vinyl plank floor (called Allure) and hearth for the wood burning stove. We will need to replace the stove/piping or change to a propane stove, since the piping failed the chimney sweep inspection. We still have to move things back into the house from the car port, so ignore the mess outside of the windows. We found the huge sofa at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore for a sweet deal.

    Then there is our new to us Honda Odyssey minivan! After about five months of getting by with only one vehicle which didn't fit our whole family ... this is a dream come true! We named her Bluebell.

    Plans ~ We kick off school next week. In the next few weeks, we are planning on doing unit studies about the artist, Henri Matisse; Laura Ingalls' The Long Winter; and the great scientist, George Washington Carver. It should be lots of fun. I also added a fun list of ideas for the month on our morning board.

    The list is as follows ~
    • Celebrate the end of the quarter at Chuck E. Cheese
    • Read The Long Winter and do projects
    • Celebrate our 100th day of school
    • Play Truth or Dare with new foods
    • Have a poetry tea
    • Have a hot chocolate bar
    • Learn about Henri Matisse
    • Have a double feature movie night
    • Perform 26 acts of kindness in remembrance of Newtown, Connecticut
    • Make gingerbread cookies for Dr. Martin Luther King Day (this is a tradition)
    • Start an ant farm
    • Have a spelling bee with prizes
    Blessings, Dawn