Monday, September 30, 2013

Week 4: Keeping it Real

Being "real" is the new thing, isn't it?  Sharing what it's REALly like in our homes, what we're REALly thinking, what being a wife and mom REALly is. 

It's not perfectly Pinnable layer cakes and kiddy crafts.

It's not GapKids clothing in the sandbox and at the art table.

It's not every hair in place or even sexy bedhead styles paired with cute boots and skinny jeans.

Not in this house, anyway.  Life is REAL here.

So let me be real.  At the start of this week, I was all done. Ready to throw in the towel.  Quit doing one of the only things I know for sure that God has called me to do: homeschool my children.  The reasons why are a whole 'nother blog post, but rest assured, I'm still here, doing it.  Thankful I get to do it, once the bad days have passed and I've gained perspective again.

One of the things I'm learning this year is the flexibility that comes with home educating your children.  I've read all about it and how great it is, but I'm the girl who likes to run on schedules, rules, and charts.  And I'll admit my confidence has waned when it comes to how we're doing academically.  So I tend to want to hit the books and rely on curriculum to determine how well we're doing.  But with Josh's schedule change, I knew that, to make it work, I'd have to be a lot more flexible with our daily schedule.  The schedule is weird, in that it rotates between day and night shifts every three days, but it also affords us a lot more time together as a family.

Part of becoming more flexible means throwing out the things that aren't working for us or the things that don't interest us.  It's substituting better books and eliminating projects.  I've already chucked several elements of our prepackaged curriculum because we're just not interested.  And yet, this doesn't mean we're doing less.  It gives more time for what we do enjoy.  Mister was perusing one of our books on Ancient Egypt and wanted to make this King Tut mask.  I confess, I had zero interest in crafting that day, but because he was so excited about it, why would I say no?  I help him draw it out and size it to fit his head and now he has a cool costume for an upcoming party.

I can so easily get discouraged with a zillion things about home life and education, but seeing my children independently reading and looking at books really does make it all better... for a while.

These are the remains of an uneaten Fluffanutter sandwich and a cup of water with a napkin stuffed inside.  I don't understand why on earth a child wouldn't eat this, especially with the crusts cut off, and I'm sure the intent is not to make me crazy, but it does.

I pray that the Lord will help me see these "messes" as "signs of life" instead :)

One thing I truly dislike doing is searching for coloring pages online.  There are a zillion different results that come up for a Sonic the Hedgehog coloring page search and most of them are junk that don't print well.  But out of love, I spend twenty minutes trying to find a worthy web site and waiting for Brown-Eyed-Girl to choose the ones she likes.

Another keeping-it-real confession: This coffee snob resorted to Folgers a few years ago because coffee is just so darn expensive and we drink so much of it.  I've found their Colombian is pretty good first thing in the morning.  We do still splurge on Starbucks for our afternoon cup or for the French press.

If you haven't heard Andrew Peterson's music, you need to. He's an artist, pure and simple.  His music was a soothing balm to me this week, particularly reminding me that the Lord sees my tears and that the day is coming when they will be wiped away for good and forever.

Favorite words from his song The Reckoning:

And  I know you hear the cries of every soul tonight * You see the teardrops as they roll tonight* Down the faces of the saints who grow weary and faint in Your fields

How long? How long? How long until the curtain is lifted?
How long is this the song that we sing?
How long until the reckoning?

When I am standing in the stillness of the reckoning
The storm is past and rest is beckoning
Mighty God, how I fear you
and I long to be near you, O Lord

And I know that I don't know what I'm asking
I long to look you full in the face
I am ready for The Reckoning.

For the first time in 10 years of motherhood I had a child stick something in her nose that we couldn't get out.  Actually, I was unsure if this little Lego was still in her nose because at first she said it had come out, but then she still complained about it being her nose.  I was ready to take her to the ER the next morning when she came downstairs and handed it to me, saying "It came out."  Well, praise the Lord!

Everybody made a pyramid of some sort.  Petite and I made ours out of popsicle sticks.

We had a few new additions to our school this week:

 First, this $5 desk found at our local thrift store. I've long wanted some desks to prevent tipping in the chairs and to get the kids to sit flat on their butts so they can write better. As you can see from the picture of Mister, that last problem wasn't solved by getting a desk. But they both love it and I've got to find another so they don't fight over it.  Mister even wanted to take it onto the deck to write in his journal.

Another addition is our new foreign language course.  I took French in high school, Josh took Latin, and now we're all going to learn Latin American Spanish.  It is  definitely different than European Spanish, particularly the accent, but I'm catching on quickly and Mister was excited to give this computer based program a shot.

I had more "keepin it real" stuff to share from the week, but for now, that's it. We're on to week 5 now!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Week 3- Apples, Field Trip, Fall is in the Air

Fall isn't quite in full swing, but it is surely in the air!  We had some lovely cool, breezy days with lots of sun this past week.  Great days for hanging out on the deck, getting some school work done.  We've been getting our wood in for winter and making apple treats- the first pie of the season and candy apples, too.

We had our first field trip of the year, to a local agricultural fair. Josh got to go with us this year, which the kids, of course, loved.  There is so much to see, but we just can't see it all.  The kids enjoy seeing the animals.  One of the exhibitors had a box full of ribbons her mules and horses had one and was giving them away, so they each got one.

Another highlight for the kids is the hill you can slide down using old cardboard pieces.  Love the smiles!

We saw found a giant piece of cardboard and some of our friends on the hill.



 The girls love the craft tent and made felt bugs this year.

My favorite part of the fair is seeing so many friends.  We meet up with friends from all three of the communities we've lived in, past and present. 

The day was very warm and sunny, so we embraced the shade whenever we could.  We topped our day off with fresh ice cream and a visit to the alpaca farm just outside the fairgrounds.  I kept calling them "llamas" (because  Petite loves the Llama Llama books) and I kept getting corrected by the taxonomy police. This is what happens when you homeschool- you get some smarty pants!

We're just about to begin our study of ancient Egypt. Mister has been impatiently waiting to make the timeline figures out of this book.  He has been making his own moveable figures since he spied this book in our school room.  This is King Narmer (or Menes) the first king of united Egypt.  This book offers two copies of each figure, one in full color, another to color- perfect for my two oldest kiddos.  We've been listening to The Story of the World volume 1 in tandem with our Creation to the Greeks scheduled studies.
A rainy weekend is ahead for us.  Just the kind I love!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

School Week 2

Week two of school was another good one. When I say "good" I pretty much mean that attitudes were positive.  Negativity and complaining are contagious diseases so when one person is in a bad mood, it spreads like nasty germs.  I confess Monday was a rough day, one of those nights I went to bed with nothing good to say about the day.  But as I was telling Josh about how awful it was, I hit upon an idea.

One of the things that seems to send one child on a negative path is making mistakes.  Getting something wrong and having to fix it.  Sometimes it's just an honest mistake.  They are learning, after all, I try to explain. But it often does no good. Anyone else have a perfectionist around the table? Or a child who rushes to get their work done and makes mistakes in the process?

"Maybe I need to reward them for each mistake they make so they learn they aren't a bad thing!" I threw up my theoretical hands.

Hmmm.... why not?  For each mistake they correct, they get a little treat. I tried chocolate chips. 

"How many mistakes did you make?" I look over each of their math papers.  "Five? Okay, did you correct them? Good! It's no big deal to make a mistake! Correct it if you can.  Mistakes help us learn!"  And I metered out five chocolate chips.

Did something so simple help? You betcha!  And no, they didn't start making mistakes on purpose.  For the rest of the week, the older two were each telling me their number of mistakes and receiving a commensurate number of chocolate chips. In fact, when Brown-Eyed-Girl was erasing things, she'd suddenly say "Chocolate!"  And bad moods were banished. 

Each child has a love language, a currency, a motivator.  My son's love language is definitely gifts.  In fact, all the kids love a gift.  B-E-G loves affection and praise.  I can't believe how motivated she is by a sticker on her schoolwork that tells her she did a great job.  The promise of a sticker if she stays on task or completes something in a certain amount of time (for she is our resident Pokey Little Puppy) keeps her moving.  Mister can stay on a positive path with just a little gift of a piece of gum or those tiny chocolate chips.  Or the promise of some DS time.  Petite is motivated by all kinds of things.  She'll pick up her toys quickly if someone will read to her afterward. Capitalizing on these motivators is a smart thing!

The kids had their second and third karate classes this week and got their gis. They were SO excited about these and can't wait to have their patches and stripes sewn on.  They love the class and I am equally excited about it. It is exactly what they need. I also met another homeschooling mom in the viewing room which was an answer to prayer.  I love how the Lord set this up for our family.

Josh is rarely home during school days, but with his new schedule, he will be much more often. This week was the first time he'd really been around for school.  I confess, he is a distraction. The kids didn't like the idea of doing school when Daddy is home. Josh is far more fun than I am and creates extra noise that distracts me most of all.  But having him home opens up so much more opportunity for all of us to learn because he has his own unique strengths to share with us.  He also was a great help with Kathryn, spending time with her so that I could teach the older two.

One of the highlights of the week was when we were learning about Galileo for our Scientist Discovery page in Considering God's Creation.  We looked up information about  him online.  Mister knew he had invented the telescope. B-E-G knew he had dropped things off the leaning tower of Pisa.  We learned about his theory of heliocentrism- the belief that the sun is the center of the universe and that the planets revolve around it. This was in direct contradiction to what the Church said was true- that the Earth was the center of the universe and everything revolved around it.  So the Church considered it heresy.  Galileo would not agree with them and was put under house arrest for the rest of his life.  Of course, we now know that what he believed is true.  The Church was wrong, he was right.

Reading the sentence of the Church, I was angry. I launched into a lesson on why we should not accept the beliefs or views of any man made institution blindly.  It's okay to ask questions, it's okay to disagree, as long as our source of truth is always God's Word, the Bible.  Galileo believed in the Scriptures and his interpretation of them and what the said about the Earth was different than the Church's interpretation. It turns out his theory of heliocentrism was true and backed up the Bible, and vice versa.  I want my kids to know it's okay to question things.  But we do have one source of absolute truth.

So after I gave them a lesson on dissent, Josh launches into a lesson physics.  Speed, velocity, force, e=mc2.  Basically, Greek to  me.  But I just love how, together, we make a great team when it comes to raising and teaching our children.  When it's time for physics, or other higher sciences and maths, he's got us covered.  Me? I teach ideas, thinking through issues, literature, the arts. Between the two of us,  our kids are going to receive a well-rounded education!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

More First Week of School

I seem to do a lot more posting about school at the beginning of the year, when things are still exciting and fresh.   As I watched Petite working on her  number puzzle with such enthusiasm, I couldn't help but think that these days are short lived.  When "school" is literally fun and games.  So I want to soak it up and take lots of pictures because these really are precious days.

With Josh on a funky schedule these days, he is sometimes home in the afternoon and then going into work in the evening.  I find that I still have to make a real dinner on these days because he needs something to take with him besides a sandwich.  I made Pizza Pasta one day this week for lunch (and it provides plenty of leftovers).  It's super easy and the kids love it. 

Cook one pound of pasta elbows, shells, or something of similar size. Drain.  Brown one pound of burger and drain.  Add two jars of pizza sauce (or make your own like I have been).  Spread enough of the sauce mixture in the bottom of a large casserole dish just to cover.  Add a layer of pasta.  Cover with sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and pepperoni slices.  Repeat the layers, ending with mozzarella on top. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, til bubbly.  You can add any of your favorite pizza toppings to the layers.

This first week of school, we were preparing to celebrate the Sabbath from sundown Friday to Saturday evening.  Two loaves of challah bread on the table are traditional so I enlisted the kids' help to make some. They really enjoyed kneading (and beating up) the dough.

And they braided it themselves too.

We set the table with our finest, which isn't very fine and is an eclectic mix of yard sale finds, but with lots of candles lit and a fresh bouquet of flowers, it was special.

The challah bread covered in the cloths the kids made.

Traditionally, the father of the family says a blessing for each child on the night Sabbath begins.

We wash our hands, sip from the same cup of wine (or grape juice in our case) and bless the Lord of the Sabbath.

No knives are used on the Sabbath- we broke bread off the same loaf.  Petite called this "halala bread". Adorable.

We made this centerpiece of floating candles and were excited to see that it worked!  We cut circles out of cork and stars out of an aluminum pie pan.  We poked a hole in the middle and stuck a candle wick through it, with most of it below the surface.  We filled a large bowl (or trifle dish in our case) with oil and about a half inch layer of vegetable oil. We lit the candles (one for each of the children) and they burned!  They will burn until they've used up all the oil. 

It was a really fantastic first week of school.  There were moments in each day that reminded me why I do this. Why it's so important to me.  Like when the kids asked that classic question "Who did Adam and Eve's kids marry?" and "Why did God make a tree and tell them they couldn't eat from it?"  We had wonderful discussions. My kids are little thinkers already and it blesses me so much.

There was another moment that encouraged me, as well as hurt my heart.  We were taking the kids to the YMCA to sign them up for karate. It was just after three on a Friday afternoon and several school buses full of children were showing up and dropping them off for after-school care.  I watched little kids getting herded off the bus and later being escorted to various activities by Y workers.  Can I confess it made me kind of angry?  And really sad?  So many kids get on the bus by seven in the morning and don't get home until five, maybe six at night.  Then off to bed early for another day of it tomorrow.  These are little kids.  Then I realized this is "normal" and what I do is "weird" to many.  There's so much I can't give my kids because of my own limitations and it's also simply impossible for me to do it "all" (read my recent post on The Drive).  And I do need help raising them.  But I'm thankful that the majority of their waking  hours are with me.  Those questions they ask about God?  They'd never be answered in school. 

We wrapped up our week with an idea I got from The Busy Mom on notebooking. We began notebooking last year with the student sheets includes with our Exploring Countries and Cultures core.  And we have more of them this year. But it's also suggested that the kids make notebooking pages  on their own. I won't get deep into this because I think you should read this excellent post (and I think if you homeschool, especially if you are newer to it, you should subscribe to Heidi's blog because she is a fresh dose of grace and you won't find formulas!).  Anyhow, on Friday we made a list on the white board of topics we studies. I gave each of the kids a new, large sketchbook and told them to choose two of the topics and make a notebooking page for each.  They had to title it and date the top.  Eventually, I'll ask them to start adding more captions.  This notebook will serve as an instant portfolio of what we've studied all year and it gives them a little bit of choice (which they always love). Mister made pages on the Sabbath and dinosaurs. B-E-G made pages on Joni Erikson Tada drawing with a brush in her mouth and one on dinosaurs. 

Oh yeah, other great moments of the week:

The kids seeking me out and saying "I thought you were going to read to us!"

"Read another chapter!"

Yes, we are all loving The Tanglewoods Secret. Even Petite is listening in.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

First Days of School

School is back in session here at the Mathews home!  And oh, my, the kids may not be loving it, but I AM!  I love structure, I love schedules, I love being productive.  Summer included none of those things I love (though I love it in it's own way, of course). 
As a teacher, I get the blessing of having the same students as I had last year :)  They are just older now and still growing.  Meet my class:
 Petite is in K-4.  K for her first name, 4 for her age, though she's in denial about being four.  Three is her favorite number.  She loves Minnie Mouse more than anything, as you can see by her dress and her painting.  She also loves to be read to, will draw on every sheet of paper available to her, and complete a coloring book in one sitting. 

Mister is fourth grade this year.  He's a budding magician, inventor, Lego Master builder, and quite a few other things interest him as well. In fact, we never quite now what he's going to ask to do or what sense it makes, like digging a giant hole in the backyard, but we know the Lord is really up to something with Mister and we're blessed that God entrusted him to us.

 Brown-Eyed-Girl is in third grade this year. She still loves animals of every kind and art is her favorite subject in school, except for reading.  She's a free-spirit and lets her paintbrush go wherever the mood takes her. In the case of her back-to-school painting, she went through about 23 coats of paint and ended up with this.  She wants to take a tumbling class and loves Sonic the Hedgehog.

Meet me, in my seventh year of teaching.  I LOVE that I get to homeschool my children.    It's the best and the hardest thing I do.  When I'm not lesson planning, teaching, and taking care of the house, I can be found cooking just for fun, reading just for fun or reading because I'm continuing my own education.  I love finding wonderful used books at Goodwill and yard sales. The UPS man frequents my house because I. love. Amazon. Prime.  Latest purchase today: youth biography on Harry Houdini for Mister and Season Three of Duck Dynasty.  I watch very little television, but two other shows I really enjoy via Netflix are Man,Woman, Wild and Wild at Heart.  I think I'm really British and meant to live in England because I love their classic literature, roses, lavender, rainy days, and Winnie-the-Pooh.  But I don't love tea so much.  Good strong coffee is what gets me out of bed in the morning.

Our first two days of school went much better than I expected. Honestly, I just really felt this week would be awful.  Perhaps because I so badly wanted it to be awesome.  Perhaps because no one else was ready to see summer go.  In any case, a family meeting the night before school started seemed to get everyone on the same page and attitudes have been very positive.

Just a few fun things we've done so far:  Mister wanted to make a fossil using a recipe found in one of our Kid Concoction books.  He even went out and scooped sand out of our driveway to make the impression in.  We mixed up some plaster of Paris and let it set and voila!

A rather cool fossil (sorry for the sideways photo).  And we just happen to be learning about dinosaurs too. 

This Friday to Saturday evening we'll be celebrating the Sabbath.  Friday night we'll have a feast and really make things special. One of the suggested activities was to make a challah covering for the traditional bread served for Sabbath.  We each made one (minus Petite. Where'd she go?  She never passes up the opportunity to use markers!).

Oh, there she is!  Coloring as usual.  And soon-to-be covered in markers!

It's pretty much sacrilege to serve your kids anything healthy to eat on the first day of school.  Even the strictest vegan, organic, whole-foods homeschooling moms agree with this.  "Happy first day of school! Here's a veggie burger and a salad!"  As Grumpy Cat would say, NO!  For us, it was the special and rare treat of pigs-in-a-blanket for lunch.  Be it known that I do buy nitrate free turkey dogs that are darn good, but there's not much I can do about those pesky crescent rolls in the poppin-fresh can.  Except maybe make the kids try to sound out the names of all those unknown ingredients and call it reading for the day.

Whew- we made it!  Two days down.... 173 more to go.  Can't wait!  There is just so much to learn and so much fun to be had.

Love the ones your with!