Wednesday, August 27, 2014

August 27, 2014

We have had a pretty fun, relaxing summer here this year.  The boys have been playing with friends a lot and I have been sneaking in some school here and there too, so they don't forget math facts and such.  Our neighborhood pool will be closing after this weekend I think.  It has been very hot here the past couple of weeks but, overall, we have had a lovely summer; much cooler than recent years.

We started back to full time school on the same day the local schools started back.  It will be two weeks tomorrow that we have been doing full time school and it is going better than ever before, which seems like a miracle.  It is really hard for me to believe because it is like night vs day, the way Nick is able to handle more work, especially more writing, longer days and is able to keep a more positive attitude.  I am so very thankful.

We have all settled into a nice routine, although the doctor's changing schedule does play a bit of havoc with it at times.  We are very appreciative of his new job though.  He really likes it a lot and is very pleased with the people he works with.  That is such a relief.  He is still on the FDA committee and will be heading back out to Washington D.C. in another week or so for another meeting.

The boys are both doing very well and growing like crazy.  Ben has always been and is still about an inch taller than Nick.  They both eat like there is no tomorrow.  Ben still loves his greens and frequently has a bowl of frozen peas or salad as a snack.  Nick likes frozen green beans as a snack.I am probably still the pickiest eater in our house, although I believe Nick would now come in second.  He has gotten a little pickier as he has gotten older but not much more really.

They will both soon be turning nine years old and we are planning to have a big birthday party for them this year, for the first time.  We have booked a place that brings laser tag to your own backyard so I think everyone will have a good time with that. This will be the first birthday party where the boys will be inviting friends, rather than just our normal family thing, so they are very excited.  After discussing it, we decided to pick a date between their birthdays and have one shared party because their birthdays are so close together.  Also Nick's birthday is a bit too close to Thanksgiving and I was really concerned that all of their friends would attend Ben's party and then very few would show up 6 weeks later for Nick's party.  They are happy with a joint party so hopefully that will work out OK.  We will still celebrate their individual birthdays with family on/around their actual birthdays.

For school, the boys are a little past half way through their 3rd grade year.  Over the summer, we started Latin and it is really going well now.  I have found that I need to be very careful on when to introduce a new subject or a new way of doing something.  Once they get into a routine, they don't like to change it up much.  They want to know exactly what they have to get done each day before they are free to play.  I plan out a schedule each week so we can all see what work we have to do for the week, although it is subject to change here and there.  We have been able to follow it pretty well though.

We have also started a new science curriculum and we are loving it.  Science is finally getting done around here on a regular basis.  We are using Science in the Beginning now, which was written by one of the guys who also wrote some of Apologia's science curriculum. We are using Getting Started With Latin for our Latin studies and both of these are very easy to use.  For Latin, we learn one new word or concept (such as direct objects) a day, which usually includes, listening to the pronunciation on my laptop, translating sentences from the book orally, and then the boys play the memory game using index cards with many of the words we have learned most recently.  They really enjoy playing the game and it really nails down the vocabulary so that is great. They have also finally learned to be good winners and losers most of the time, which is great.  We used to play games for school very seldom because it always ended up in a fight or someone getting angry or crying.

When we do school, we always do our 'together' work first, followed by the subjects they do more independently or with which they need one-on-one help....or they may do a subject separately because one is much faster at finishing than the other and it can be very frustrating for the one who is not quite as fast.

Our together subjects are spelling (we are still using All About Spelling and just finishing up Level 3), Latin and History/Science (we are still using Story of the World for History) and I read aloud to them (we just finished Johnny Tremain - our first book with a somewhat sad ending).  We do history on Mon and Wed and science on Tues and Thurs.

The subjects they do separately are math (we are still using CLE Math), grammar, writing and read-to-self (40 minutes).  We are still using IEW for writing, using their Bible Heroes book and we are about half way through.  We are now also using IEW for grammar, using their newly updated Fix It! Grammar and we are loving it.  Ben also practices the piano for 18 minutes.  Nick reads a little longer if he gets done first but Ben usually works a bit faster than Nick so they are normally done at about the same time.

I wanted to start school each day at 8:30 but we are getting started at 9:00, just like last year.  It seems to be working so far so I guess we will stick with it for now.  We work for about an hour and a half and then take a 30 minute break. We work for another hour, approximately, then break for lunch for an hour and a half, after which we work for another hour or hour and a half and then we are done for the day.  Most days we finish up around 3:30 but once in a while we finish closer to 3:00 or 4:00, depending on how diligent and punctual we have been.

We are back in co-op this year and the boys are really excited about it.  We went for the first time last Friday and they had a great time seeing all of their friends again.  Their two best friends from co-op are also in their AWANA's class on Wednesday nights at our church.  The boys are taking four co-op classes this year, including a science lab, a literature class, a music class focusing on percussion (they love this!) and Spanish 2.  Ben said his favorite class is the science lab and Nick's is Spanish 2. It has been a year since they took the first Spanish class but the teacher has review in it so I think they will do fine and she makes it very fun and exciting.  They get to do a lot of pretending, like they are working in a shop, selling clothes or working in a cafe or going to a zoo, etc.  and they learn all of the vocabulary associated with those things.  They also make puppets and learn vocabulary associated with parts of the body.  Their teacher makes it very fun, actually all of the teachers do. I could never teach a class like this because I am just not that fun with a group of loud children but I think I do OK with just two....most of the time anyway:).  I am happy to help out though in any way I can, which makes the co-op situation work.  This co-op has really grown since we were in it year before last.  I think they have around 70 families now and it was closer to 25 or 30 before.  So we are meeting lots of new people which is fun too.

My garden has provided a lot of opportunities to learn what NOT to do (LOL).  We have had so many cherry tomatoes that we have gotten lazy about going out to pick they are hard to get to because the plants were not supported well enough.  The corn came in but the ears were eaten by worms before they were ready for us to pick them so I need to research that a bit more.  Also, I didn't plant enough corn for it to really be useful.  The larger tomatoes ended up with bottom rot, even though we sprayed them.  The strawberries in the same box did not get enough water and died. I think the watering system is messed up and the tomatoes were getting double water (hence, the bottom rot) and the strawberries were getting none.  The husband needs to work on that, since he set up the watering system.  The carrots never got very big and I am not sure why.  The boys still picked them and thought the tiny baby carrots were good to eat.  I am not sure what happened with them; more research required.  The green beans were good but there were not enough of them.  The lettuce didn't grow at all because I planted the cherry tomatoes next to them and they blocked the sun and eventually just spread out to cover many of the other plants.
Well, you get the idea.  Lots of learning going on here regarding gardening but not much edible food, other than tons of cherry tomatoes.  I'm sure we will try again next year and hopefully I will have learned a few things to do differently.

Dancer is now over 16 years old and went in for a teeth cleaning the other day.  He seems to be doing pretty well, although he is very thin.  He loves being outside.  Tinkerbell is still her chubby self (much like me:) and loves being out on the screened-in porch.  She is free to roam the house at night now days and she is usually very good about not waking us up.  She is a funny cat and loves to play but still hates having Dancer in the house.  Once in a while she gets these evil looking eyes and she goes after me or one of the other people living in our house.  She is very strange in this way and I have never had a cat like that before.  She might have a mental problem.  Fortunately it doesn't happen very often but she has bitten me very hard a couple of times, usually after we have returned from a long trip but also once in a great while when I am just petting her and she is purring like she is so happy and then, boom!, she attacks.  I am still hopeful she will grow out of it eventually.

I think that is about all that is new for us right now and I have to get back to teaching so must go.  Hope you are all doing well.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

May 27, 2014

We recently returned from a two week vacation to Washington D.C. and Virginia,  taking a northerly route eastward and a southerly route back home.  We got to see tons of sights and visit with friends of ours that moved to VA 5 years ago.  We had a lovely trip.  This was our second long car trip and we are enjoying them and looking forward to our next one.

We are having a hard time with getting back into school since we have returned.  I tried something different this time, thinking it might make the transition a little easier.  I thought we would ease into it by starting with just one subject a day and then adding more on as we went.  That has not helped at all and may have made things worse.  I would liken it to removing a very large and sticky bandaid a tiny bit at a time, versus taking it off quickly and getting it over with.

Ben recently had a staph infection on his skin so we had him on an antibiotic and he has had a very bad allergic reaction to it.  He has a bad rash and a swollen face in the mornings.  The rash is on his face, around his eyes and ears, on his cheeks and around his neck and here and there all over his arms and torso.  Just recently it looks as if it is spreading to his legs now.  It is very itchy and gets worse if he plays hard and gets sweaty.  This is the fourth day and it does look a bit better today.  I have been putting prescription level hydocortizon cream on it and he is taking various antihistimines.  He is having a miserable time of it though.  I did a search online and some people who had this suffered for weeks before it got better.  We have an appointment with an allergist tomorrow so maybe she will have some addition suggestions.

When you add the rash to trying to do school, you get no where:).  I have not even tried until today but I am going to have them do a couple of things today and they are both very unhappy about it and arguing with me about it.  I know they would be acting the same way even if he did not have the rash though and I can tell he is feeling better today.  I let them play video games all day yesterday and watch tv to take his mind off of the itching so now I have created a monster and that is all they want to do again today.

We recently bought a trampoline.  The doctor-dad had been against them and did not want to get one for the boys but pretty much everyone in the neighborhood but us has one.  He had no problem with the boys jumping on other people's trampolines so, after rethinking it through, he decided it was probably ok for us to have one too.  The boys are very excited and love it, especially Nick.

The boys are just finishing up a season of baseball and they have really enjoy it and improved quite a bit.   They have had some really good coaching and have really learned a lot.  Ben is definitely ready for it to be over but I think Nick is still enjoying it.

Ben is still taking piano lessons and he is fine with practicing on school days because it is part of our routine and everyone is busy doing something.  He has a really hard time practicing on non-school days because everyone else gets to do whatever they want and he wants to also.  He is only required to practice 18 minutes but it feels like a long time to him.  I think once he sits down and starts practicing he really enjoys it though.  I have told him he can quit whenever he wants but he is really torn about what to do because sometimes he loves it.  I try to encourage him but not sure how much longer he will keep with it.  Our rule was that they had to take music lessons for two years but they could quit after that time if they wanted.  Nick quit right away:).  He has a very hard time making himself do something that he does not feel like doing and I already have to butt heads with him at times for schoolwork, so I don't also want to have to fight with him over practicing the piano every day.  We'll see how long Ben keeps with it.

Both boys are still taking swimming lessons, although they are on a two week break right now.  They will start back next week.  Neither of them are very excited about swim lessons these days and I think they would quit if we let them.  But they are both at level 5 now and very close to being able to try out for swim team, which we thought they might really enjoy.  So we wanted them to at least try it.  So we are making them stick with it at least that long.  I have mixed feelings about this really (for selfish reasons of we would have more time without the swimming) but we are very close so I guess it might be worth it.  One of them might just decide he really likes it and I think they could make some really good friends that way.

We are planning to join our co-op again in August and they are offering some interesting classes so I think the boys will enjoy it.  They went to a birthday party recently and saw a bunch of the kids from co-op and I think they really missed it so we will all be looking forward to that.

We have planned a trip to Disney World in Florida for January.  It is unusual for us to take two big vacations so close together, as we are usually doing good to get in one per year.  But we ended up getting a special deal on the hotel and it was good enough we decided we should go now.  We had been discussing when to take the boys because we really wanted to take them before they got too much older so it seems the time is right.  We will be flying though because we will have less time.  The boys don't seem too excited yet.  I think it is too far away for them to get excited this soon.  I'm sure they will be around Christmas time though.  I'm excited:).  It has been a long time since I have been so I am really looking forward to it and it will be fun to see it through their eyes.  They are both around 8.5 years old now, in case anyone is wondering:).

We have gotten / are getting a lot of rain here in the past couple of days and today and boy did we need it.  I am welcoming it with open arms, although it is very humid these days, but I am ok with that as long as we get the rain.

We have been discussing what kinds of things we might be able to get involved with to serve others as a family.  At some point, we would really like to do some mission trips as a family but, in the mean time, I would like to find something we can do locally.  I am going to start researching this.  If you have any ideas, please let me know.

I finally planted a garden this year.  I'm a novice so I am not sure how much of it will produce but I planted a little bit of a lot of veggies.  I am excited to see what grows and what doesn't.

Our community pool is open, as of this past weekend, although it is a bit too cool right now.  We have had days when it got up to around 90 degrees and I am sure, once this rain moves off, it will probably get very hot again and the boys will be excited about going swimming (they like swimming, just not having to go to the lessons while they could be playing with friends:).

The boys have a very good friend who lives two houses down the block and they play together quite a bit.  His family is getting ready to move to Houston so they are really going to miss him a lot.  We still have the sweet neighbors that live next door with the 4 and 2 year olds and the boys enjoy playing with them also.  There is a new house being built next door to them and they will have boys around Ben's and Nick's age so we will look forward to them moving in.  Also, someone has already bought the house of the family moving to Houston so I am hopeful they might have young children also.

Well, that is about it for now.  I need to get back to schooling with the boys, or at least try:).

Friday, February 14, 2014

February 14, 2014

We have had a great week of homeschooling this week.  Actually, I would say that this might have been one of our best weeks ever.  No bad attitudes, no major issues with any of the assignments, we all got along well and the boys both got their work done with no major complaints.  This was our third week of homeschooling since the boys tried public school for a week.

Our first day or two back at homeschooling, after the public school trial, was surprisingly extremely bad.  I had a new perspective so I handled it very calmly and matter-of-factly but that first day was a real bad one.  We got through it though and through the second day, which was a little better but still bad and then the rest of that week was pretty good.  The first day of the second week was also a very bad day, although not nearly as bad as the first day of the first week.  Since then, things have steadily improved, thankfully.  I was pleasantly surprised that this week was so great. Hopefully we will have more weeks like this going forward.

We had to go to the school to return some of their things and pick up some of ours.  Everyone there was so friendly and sweet to us. I was so impressed.  They had the boys go back to their classrooms and tell their classmates goodbye.  Nick's teacher came out and gave me a big hug and talked to us for a short time.  She wanted to know what curriculum we were using and was just so sweet about everything.  They all said they would miss the boys and told them to come back to visit.  Really just the greatest group of people and it is so nice to know they are there if we ever decide to go that direction.

We are back to using our tried and true spelling and grammar curriculum and I am glad we switched back.  I think they are better programs and we enjoy the interaction together, although I think Ben thinks it goes a bit slower than he would prefer to go (I told him he could switch back to the curriculum he could do on his own but he didn't want to).  He is a speedster on everything he does though so it is probably good for him to be forced to slow down a bit once in a while.  You should hear how fast he plays the songs he is assigned to practice on the piano.  He plays everything in double-time.  His piano teacher gets such a kick out of him at times.

Our writing program is coming along quite well so far.  I am taking it slow but I am pleased on how well the boys are doing with it and excited to see how far they will have come by summer break.  We are enjoying the same history program that we have always used, along with checking out library books about the topics we are covering.  We are still working to finish up Little Lord Fauntleroy as our read aloud.  We are all enjoying it so much but it seems we are having trouble fitting in time to finish it.  (We have had a lot of sickness in our house lately.)  Nick just finished a book called Flight of the Fugitives and today he started reading Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to himself.  Ben is towards the end of Trumpet of the Swan, which is one of my all time favorites.  The husband has been teaching chemistry to the boys and all three of them are enjoying it.  Math is moving along and they have almost finished 2nd grade math and will be moving into 3rd grade math sometime in March.  They have just started learning multiplication and are working on multiplying by 0, 1, 2 and 10 and will soon be adding 5.  They are really picking up the multiplication very well.  I am sure this is thanks to all of the skip counting their math requires them to practice.

The husband is applying for a couple of jobs that would bring him much closer to home, which is what we have been wanting for a long time now.  He took a job that we thought would be ideal but it turns out that it was not quite what it was sold as.  But he has found two opportunities that both sound promising so we are hopeful and prayerful that one of them will work out well.

We are having a beautiful week here this week and boy did we need it.  In the past three weeks, Nick and Ben both got some sort of virus that had them up in the middle of the night vomiting and then fever all the next day.  The strange thing was that Nick had it first and then Ben had it about a week and a half after Nick was over it.  I think we might have been passing it back and forth between us and the neighbor kids or something.  Then Ben had a cold and I caught it and ended up eventually having to take antibiotics for a sinus infection and then Nick caught the cold from me.  Just when we thought he was recovering, he took a turn for the worse and spiked a temperature of 104.3.  I was so shocked because I thought he was getting better.  We thought he might have pneumonia or the flu but he didn't have either.  He has two more days of antibiotics for upper respiratory infection.  I think we might all be well now.  From what I have heard from talking to neighbors, people at church and doctor-husband is that there are a lot of viruses going around right now, in addition to the flu.  Oh, and the throw up virus was running rampant at the public school when the boys were there so we are pretty sure that is where Nick picked that one up.

It is wonderful to finally all be well again.  I can't remember a time when we had so much sickness come through our house in such a short period of time.  I think it has a lot to do with the extremely cold temps we have had over the past couple of months and how it keeps everyone confined.  So this warmer weather could not have come at a better time.

I am planning my raised-bed garden and am very hopeful that we will finally be able to put it in this year.  I would like to plant two blueberry bushes and have two separate 2x4 foot garden boxes for strawberries so we could plant one this year and one next year, since they take a year to get going and they usually only last for 2 to 3 years before you have to replant new plants.  That way we could always have strawberries going in one box or the other.

In addition to these, I would like to start with three 4x4 foot boxes for veggies.  That is what I am hoping for but reality might be different.  If I could just get part of that in this year, I would be happy.  Hopefully we can make that happen.  I am dependent on the husband to finish fixing the watering system, which includes some digging and laying some pipes, and also to build the boxes.  I had bought some pre-made boxes but they were very cheaply built and it was obvious they would not last long so he wants to build sturdier ones.  He bought the wood to start building the boxes yesterday. We are suppose to have beautiful weather for the next week or so I am hopeful he might be able to get this done in time.  We were in the low 60's yesterday, mid 50's today but very windy so it felt colder and tomorrow we are suppose to be close to 70 I think.  I think we are suppose to have several close to 70 days coming up and we are all very excited about it.  I am so ready for spring...and so done with winter.

I have put aside some pics that I am going to load a little later to give a picture update.  The boys are really getting big.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

January 26, 2014

The verdict is in: 1 week was how long it took for us all to decide we like homeschooling better.  Tomorrow we start home schooling again:).  All of us have learned a lot from this experience.  I will try to explain a few of the lessons we learned.  Get your cup of coffee and get comfortable because this will likely be long.

One of the things that we disliked the most was (what seemed to us) the small amount of time we had to spend with the boys every day.  AND there were so many things to be squeezed into that small amount of time.

The bus picked the boys up at 8:25-8:30.  We had a very cold week last week so they were waiting outside in 12 to 16 degree weather, and that is not counting the wind chill factor.  The boys were dropped off just after 4:00 most days (except Monday, when it was later).  So they were gone for 7.5 hours.  When they came home, they wanted to play for a while because they actually got to do very little of that at school, much to their surprise and disappointment.

They had one short recess after lunch but Nick's teacher kept the boys in for 2 days in a row because some of the boys were not behaving (he was pretty upset about this, especially after the second day).  They could not go outside because it was too cold.  I'm not sure why (too many kids maybe?) but they did not let them go to the gym to play either.  They played in the 2nd grade classrooms and their 'pod'.  This school has what they call pods which are groups of classrooms surrounding a large middle room. It really is a very well designed school and the architect won awards for the design.  Anyway, there are four second grade classrooms surrounding a large middle room so they played in that area.  They only have P.E. every third day so if it is too cold to go outside and it is not a P.E. day, they end up with no physical exercise, other than walking from the class to lunch and stuff like that.

So they were wanting to play for a while when they got home from school, although I did try to talk with them a bit first and see how their day went, normally while they had a quick snack.  Then they went to play, sometimes with a neighbor, if they were home.  While they were playing, I went through their backpacks and tried to make sense of the papers that were sent home.  I found it pretty confusing at times as to which papers were to be completed and sent back and which were not, but that's another story.

Each evening Nick had to do at least 30 minutes of homework and sometimes more. Ben could normally get his done a bit faster so probably 20 to 30 for him.  We tried doing homework before dinner, after 30 minutes of play, and we tried it after dinner.  We did not feel that either approach was ideal.  Actually, it didn't seem like any homework was ideal since they had been gone for so many hours of the day, although I do understand why the schools need to assign homework.

I must admit that I personally hated, HATED, the homework.  They both needed adult help with some of it.  When they did it before dinner, then I had to work it around trying to make dinner.  When they did it after, we were cleaning up from dinner and we were all tired, since it was the end of the day.

Basically our evenings seemed very cut short and hectic for all of us and mornings seemed more hectic also.  Neither Paul nor I cared for this and we did not like how it affected our family life overall, especially considering we had much less time with the boys also.  We had less time and it was of lower quality.

The other big issue was that they were not going to be learning much of anything for the rest of this year.  Neither Paul nor I realized how much this would bother us, although this was one of the things that the boys said was good about going to school, that it was easy.

When the boys were tested by the school counselor for placement, they scored in the middle of 7th grade for reading fluency, the middle of 5th grade for word recognition and beginning to end of 3rd grade for every else except spelling, where they scored right on target (mid-2nd grade).  The counselor debated putting them into 3rd grade and we discussed it and both agreed it could possibly be too stressful, as they so some important testing in 3rd and they would have missed half of a year in 3rd grade.  Even though they scored high, we had been using all 2nd grade materials at home, except for math where we are still finishing up 1st grade.  I thought it would be pretty risky to dump them into a class half way through 3rd grade at this point, especially knowing that a lot more writing would be expected from them in 3rd and I felt Nick would already have a challenge with that in 2nd.  Also, the boys had never been to school and had to learn the ins and outs of school life. So, considering all of that, we decided it would be best to keep them in 2nd grade and the counselor predicted they would be bored but I thought that was better than having them feeling like failures.

But then we saw them bringing home Level 2 readers and Nick had to spend one evening doing tons of writing that was basically busy work but he had not finished it during class so it was sent home and added to the rest of his homework.  He had a good attitude about it and was trying hard to get it done but it was way too much writing for him and it was busy work, in my humble opinion.  He cried, not angry tears but sad tears, because he was trying so hard to get it done but it was taking so long.  He woke up the next morning and started on it again without me saying anything to him about it.  He was not able to finish it before he had to leave for school.

I talked to the school about testing Nick for his fine motor skill issues and told them about the occupational therapy he has been receiving for the past 6 months or so (that he could not continue while in school because they don't have appointments late enough).  The lady was going to talk to his teacher on Friday to discuss it with her and see what accommodations they could make for him but they would not test him until they saw whether these accommodations they put in place would help him enough or not.  The accommodations were things like using a special grip on this pencil (which he has always used at home), possibly cutting the amount of writing required by him and a few other things that we have been doing at home for a while now.  I don't think this would be enough and I think he would continue to struggle with writing unless his grades got so low they finally decided they had to test him.  I strongly felt this would be an issue and he would end up feeling less confident about his abilities and his intelligence.  He also has 'tracking' issues, which I have a hard time explaining, but it makes it very hard for him to do copy work and he was really having a hard time reading music notes and seeing when they went up a step or two steps.  He would work on a favorite piece all week and it sounded great to us and then at his lesson his teacher would show him where he had been playing the wrong note in several places all week.  That didn't make him feel very good.  At one point last week he asked his teacher what time it was because the clock didn't have numbers on it and he was having a hard time reading it (he can tell time in math problems just fine). His teacher said, "Don't you know how to tell time yet?", which made him feel bad.  I told the special services lady that she need to let the teacher know he had fine motor skill issues and, if he asks for help tying his shoe, she is not to ask him, "Don't you know how to tie your shoes yet?!"

Ben's teacher was clearly very organized.  I was very impressed with the structure she had around her classroom and Ben really liked her.  Nick's teacher was clearly not very organized and I got the feeling her classroom was a bit chaotic at times.  The night he brought home so much homework he had been distracted during school that day and not gotten much done.  She was also a yeller.  Nick talked about this a couple of times and Ben commented on it also because apparently he heard her several times too and he could not believe how much she yelled because his teacher didn't yell at all.  This was definitely not the right kind of environment for Nick, as he has trouble focusing when there is too much going on around him.

So, we have less quality and quantity family time + homework every evening + work is too easy (which is ironic considering the homework issue) + fine motor skill issues for Nick + I don't know when we would ever fit in anything else in the evenings, such as swimming lessons, piano lessons, AWANA, read alouds, baths.  (How do families do this?)

I also had a lot of time to contemplate our homeschooling experience and reflect on it in light of the new information of the testing scores (we had never had the boys tested before).  In retrospect, I think I was probably pushing them a little too hard in some areas.  I had also made some changes to our curriculum line up and, in retrospect, I think these were bad changes, especially for Nick.

We had been using interactive spelling and English curriculum and I switch them to a more workbook formatted curriculum that they could do mostly without my help.  I was adding a new writing program and also Latin and I knew these would require more one on one time with me so I switched to a workbook style with spelling and English so it would free me up to work with one of them on writing or Latin while the other worked alone.  I think they both enjoyed the curriculum we had been using for spelling and English so we are going to go back to using those, I am going to hold off on Latin until at least half way through 3rd grade and possible the beginning of 4th.  I am getting rid of this reading program I had added (and was having trouble fitting in) because they don't need it and the other methods we are using are clearly working already.  They were enjoying their computer class at school so I loaded a typing program that I happened to get for free and it looks fun for kids.  I let them try it out today and they were enjoying it so it might be a fun addition to our school day.

I need to quit stressing if we don't get everything done every single day and just enjoy the journey with them.  They are doing great, our methods are working and I need to quit worrying about if I am doing enough and just keep doing what we were doing, instead of thinking that they need to do a lot more for 3rd grade.

Their favorite parts of the day were riding the bus, eating lunch and recess.  I asked them if they were getting to play with others a lot more now that they were in school and they both said no.  When I asked them who they play with at recess they said they play with each other.  They knew plenty of kids, since there are kids in their class from our neighborhood, our church and also from when they were in cub scouts last year.  They were excited to see kids that they knew but they still played with each other at recess.

They really had mixed feelings about school all week.  They talked about things they liked and things they didn't like.  I think they really liked that they got to experience it, although Nick was showing definite signs of stress.  When we told them we had decided to go back to homeschooling, they both reacted about the same, which was kind of a really? OK and why? but not much more than that.  Surprisingly Ben was the one who expressed some mixed feelings about what he would miss, after telling us every single day that he did not want to go to public school and wanted to go back to homeschooling.  Nick never really said anything about what he would miss and I think he was secretly relieved, and in the end both of them ended up saying they were really glad we had decided to go back to homeschooling.

I know that we will still have our challenges but the next time I see that both boys are pushing back and having a bad attitude, I am going to take some time to review what we are doing and try to figure out what it is that is not working for them.  I will make an effort to find a co-op that works for us also because I think they really enjoyed the one we were in last year and they miss it.  They had P.E., art, Spanish and a drama class there and we all ate lunch together also, so they really felt like part of the group.  When I told Nick we were going to go back to homeschooling, he asked if we could join a co-op again. So I definitely have to look into this.

All this said, I would still tell anyone around here that our local elementary down the street is an excellent school (depending on which teacher you get, of course, but that is true of any school).  I was very impressed with much of what I read that Ben's teacher sent home.  It is one of the best schools in the area and I could definitely see why.

And that is where I need to end this book because I am getting very sleepy and we have school tomorrow!
  Please excuse any typos.  I am so sleepy tonight.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

January 22, 2014

The day got off to a cold start.  The boys waited outside in 16 degree windy weather for the bus to come for about 15 or 20 minutes and it never showed up.  Nick went from being upset with me that I would not let him go outside earlier to coming in-out, in-out, trying to keep warm.  We finally gave up and the dad took the boys to the school, which is about a 5 minute drive from our house.  They were disappointed because they were really excited about riding the big yellow school bus.

I had a short list of things I wanted to get done while they were at school.  I started off by doing some cleaning and then took a shower.  By the time I had finished getting ready for the day, my cold was hitting me hard and all I wanted to do was rest, which I did for the rest of the day:).

The boys came home on the bus.  School lets out at 3:30 and they were suppose to arrive home around 3:40.  It was well after 4:00 when they showed up but I was not surprised because I had called after they left for school with the dad and I found out there was a substitute bus driver so I suppose he didn't know the routine or something.  Anyway, I had just-out-of-the-oven cookies waiting for them when they arrived.  We sat at the kitchen island eating hot cookies and they told me about their day. 

They both had a good day.  Nick got to have P.E. and I think Ben had music but he didn't mention that so not entirely sure.  They enjoyed their lunch and they get to go to lunch together, even though they are in separate classes.  I heard snippets and bits about different parts of their day but did not really get a full picture (what did you do first, and then what?)  They would have been too impatient to do the question and answer thing so I just listened as they spilled out what they remembered.

Nick was not happy about his teacher keeping all of the boys in for recess because one boy kept talking and interrupting her during class.  I agree that I don't think that is fair and I'm not sure what she hopes to accomplish by punishing all boys for one boy's wrong doings.  When I was young, if they did this, they might have hoped the other children would say something the one who was not behaving and kind of get him in line.  Today, that would be considered bullying so I am not sure what she was hoping to accomplish with that one.

Ben was not happy that, while he was eating his afternoon snack (they are allowed to bring something for afternoon snack in their classroom) other kids kept asking him to give it to them.  He did not like that at all.

Nick also said he asked his teacher what time it was at one point during the day and he did not like that she asked him, somewhat increduously, if he did not know how to tell time.  He does know to tell time but I guess the clock did not have numbers on it or something....something was different about the clock that threw him off.

Other than those small negative points, they both seemed to have had a good day.  They played for a while and then we ate dinner and then it was time to do some homework.  They were NOT at all happy about having to do the homework, even though we had talked about this being a requirement many many times.  They both were whining and throwing quite the fit (Nick's is always worse and longer though).  Ben got with it and got his done quickly.  Nick took longer and had to wad up his paper and complain and complain instead of writing his spelling words.  He finally got with it and then it didn't take very long.  Just like with home school, it takes him longer to finish fit-throwing and start working.

After home work, all was right with the world again and they played happily until bedtime.

I am wondering how long it will take for the honeymoon to wear off.  Anyone want to guess?  I was thinking 2 to 3 weeks but it may take longer.  I suspect it will take longer for Nick than it will for Ben.  Ben still has very mixed feelings about going to school.

We shall see but I will definitely document this journey, for them and for me.  I am going to start a Bible study for myself and I have started working through The Well Educated Mind.  As soon as I can get to the used bookstore, I am going to purchase Don Quixote and start reading.  I missed out on pretty much all of the classics when I was in school so I am going to do some self-educating during this time I have to myself.  I am also going to try to plant a garden this spring and I might do some painting in our house but I'm not sure about that one...we'll see if I have the energy for that after I get over this cold.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

January 16, 2014

The boys and I ran errands this morning to prepare for them to start public school tomorrow.  They were both due for eye examines so we did that and Nick had to have an updated script (as expected) and Ben's eyes are 20/15.  We picked out new glasses for Nick.  He can't wait to wear contacts but I think he was pretty happy with the ones he got.  This was the first time he really picked them out by himself.  I think they look really sharp.

After ordering Nick's glasses, we went to the bank to retrieve the boys' OK birth certificates from our safety deposit box.  Then we headed to the school administration building to register.  It didn't take long at all because we had all of the paperwork we needed.  She gave us a contact number to call at the local elementary so I called and set up a tour for this afternoon.

The boys will officially start tomorrow.  Since they have been homeschooled up to now, they will have to take some tests to determine their grade level.  I hope they do OK, as they have never taken any formal tests before.  The only testing they have done were small math or spelling tests with me.  Just before our Christmas break, they had finished our 2nd grade curriculum in everything except math, but they were almost finished with it also.  So hopefully they will have no problem testing into the second grade.  (yes, I'm a little nervous, since it reflects on me....prayers people, I need prayers!:).

Nick is very excited and can't wait.  Ben, not so much.  I think there is a part of Ben that is excited but the other part of him really does not want to go to public school and that part tends to be more vocal.  I know he will do very well though and I suspect that he will end up really liking it.  I think Nick will love the social aspect of it and may thrive on the academic competition in that environment (as opposed to competing with his brother) but I think he will have a hard time with the required writing.

They are both most likely behind in writing, from the school's perspective, because we had a different philosophy on how to approach writing than the school uses.  Even then, N has always had issues with writing and fine motor skills and that is why he has been in occupational therapy for the past 6 months or so.  We are hoping that maybe they will take that over within the school but we shall see.  Our insurance doesn't cover it and it is very expensive so it would be nice if they did, plus it would save me a weekly trip into to the city and they would make allowances for Nick's writing difficulties.  They will test him and I will hope and pray they agree he has fine motor issues and will take it on.

Some are probably wondering how it has come to this point, that we are putting them in public school.  Basically I believe that Nick had made up his mind that this is what he wanted and he has been refusing to work for me and, really, both boys have had a bad attitude about school for a while now but one's is incredibly bad.  I have tried everything I know to try and I fear it is impacting our relationships, which I do not want.  So the husband and I discussed it (he has seen the problem behavior in action) and we both agreed that it was time they spent a semester at public school to see what it is like and see if they like it better.  I figure they will either like/love it, want to continue and will be more willing to work hard with a good attitude for their teachers, or they will dislike/hate it and want to come back home, hopefully with a new appreciation of what they have here.  Either way, I think it will likely be a win for us, compared to what we have been having.  The difficult thing is that I do not want to do both.  I don't want to homeschool one while the other is at public school because it just adds a lot more work and responsibility to my plate in various ways.  So it will be difficult if one wants to stay in public school and one wants to come home.  I suppose we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

Some may also be wondering how I feel about this.  In a word, heartbroken.  But I am trying very hard not to show it and to keep a very positive attitude about public school, while also setting expectations by comparing pros and cons between homeschool and public school.  I also feel a bit of a failure.  I tend to be a type A personality, a get-it-done kind of person and I don't naturally joke around a lot or tease.  Maybe if I had tried a little harder to make it more fun they would have enjoyed it more. 

I have always felt that teaching them was a privilege and I really enjoyed it a lot.  I enjoyed seeing their faces light up when something they had been working on finally clicked or they learned something interesting (I loved teaching them to read), I enjoyed reading lots of interesting library books to them and also all of the classics we have read together and loved and still make reference to at times.  I enjoyed the research, trying to determine which curriculum might work best for us.  I really loved it all, even though it was a lot of work.  But most of all, I loved spending lots of time with them and I will miss them during the 6 or 7 hours they are gone each day (school is from 9:00-3:30 plus 30 minutes before and after, taking the bus).

It is also very hard to give up the control of directing their education.  I felt we were on a path to a better education than the school could provide so I am kind of mourning that also.  It will be a huge adjustment for me to let someone else take over this responsibility, a responsibility that I always took very seriously and made an effort to provide the best I could.

Fortunately we have a very good school in our neighborhood, close to our house.  It is newly built and is really a very lovely building and many of the neighborhood kids that the boys play with go there.  I am sure we will all adjust and I will eventually find lots of things to fill up the empty hours of my day (I have already thought of several possibilities).

So, big changes in the Pisarik household. The husband is also making career choices/changes so please keep us all in your prayers.  This is a tumultuous time for us.

p.s.  We took the school tour and met lots of very nice, friendly staff.  The boys also saw several boys they knew, which was encouraging to them.  They were more excited after the tour.  We also saw the lunch menu and we are all pretty impressed with it.  Nick was complaining that he wouldn't like anything they serve and wanted to take his lunch but now he wants to eat there.

Tomorrow morning at 9:00 we start testing.  One will test from 9-10 and the other from 10-11 (please be praying for us during this time if you can).  Then they will be able to assign them to a class and the boys will eat lunch there, have recess and spend the rest of the day with their class.  They are out on Monday for MLK day but will hopefully be able to hit the ground running on Tuesday morning, knowing where to go and already having a desk, etc.

I am doing great in front of people I don't know, but every time I run into a fellow homeschooler and it comes up, I can not hardly keep it together.  I know it is going to turn out fine and it takes a while to adjust.  In the meantime I feel as if I am mourning a loss and it is hard at times.

Your prayers are greatly appreciated during this time.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

October 8, 2013

OK, put your seat belt on because this is a hodge podge of an update with no organized order whatsoever.

First, before I forget to document this, I was downstairs doing something yesterday and the boys were both playing upstairs.  At one point they asked me if I knew where their two boy dolls were.  These are boy dolls that my sister bought them when they were just 2 or 3 years old and they have played with them on and off over the years.  Nick has played with them more but he really likes little kids.  I think Ben finds little kids kind of annoying.  Anyway, they finally found one of them and they were playing and I heard Nick say "Ben, I'm birthing a baby.   Ben, I'm birthing a baby!"  I was trying not to laugh out loud because I didn't want them to hear me.  Then Ben came downstairs looking for some old newspapers because "If I am going to be the father, I have to read a newspaper", which was also pretty funny.  I told the husband about it and we were both laughing so hard.

We are having beautiful fall weather here these days.  It is really lovely and not getting too cold too fast.  We are having temps in the low 50's at night and in the 70's or low 80's in the day.  It is very pleasant.

I am working on my school planning for January, when the boys will be starting 3rd grade.  Well, they will be starting 3rd grade for everything except math.  Before I moved them on to 2nd grade math, I used a different curriculum and re-covered some of the 1st grade topics (mostly place value and memorizing addition/subtraction math facts) because I didn't think they were quite strong enough on a few things.  I am so glad I did too because they are really moving along confidently now and it is wonderful to see.  This year I am teaching from two different math curricula to hopefully avoid that from happening again.  It is a balancing act to know when to cover what from which one but, so far, it seems to be working out OK.

Today I had a 30% off coupon so I went ahead and purchased our next year of Story of the World, which is our history curriculum.  We have all really enjoyed this one a lot so there is never any question that we will do the next one.  The last one is in 4th grade so I will have to figure out what we will do after that but, in the mean time, we are really enjoying SOTW.

I am planning to attempt to start Latin again in January and I am hopeful we will have better results this time.  I had planned to start it last January but it ran our days too long and it required more writing than N was ready for at that time.  Since then I have researched the various Latin programs further and have found a different one that I think will be better for us and that we will all enjoy more (I hope).  Nick is doing much better with his writing too.  His occupational therapy is really paying off.  He is much more willing to write for himself now and very seldom asks me to write for him or has a meltdown about having to write.  He has made huge strides and I am so thankful that we had the resources to be able to provide OT for him.  I don't know if I mentioned this earlier or not but the occupational therapist said she suspected that he might have skipped crawling.  He has come along so far that he can even tie his shoes now, which is amazing.  He would not even try until recently and he is learning very quickly now.

The other day a neighbor boy was over here playing and he had ridden his "motorcycle" (battery operated) over here.  Nick was outside on the driveway riding it while the neighbor was inside playing with Ben.  A little later Nick came into the house and handed the dad his glasses.  The dad says, "oh, the lens popped out again", which has been a common problem with this particular pair of glasses.  Then the dad gets a closer look at the glasses and is wondering aloud what happened to them as he showed them to me.  They are pretty much totally destroyed.  The lens didn't pop out, the metal around the lens was broken in two pieces.  The arms that go back to the ears are both bent so far they are almost torn lose.  They really are pretty much destroyed.  So I asked Nick what happened (he had been quiet while we were taking inventory of the damage) and he was still kind of quiet so I reassured him it was OK and he was not in trouble.  He had taken his glasses off and laid them on the driveway (not sure why, maybe to protect them? or they bothered him when he was wearing the helmet?).  He forgot they were there and ran over them with the motorcycle.  I think it is actually pretty funny, not the $$ part but the typical little boy accident part.  So I really must get him over there and get another pair because his old pair that he is wearing now (the ones we thought were lost just before we left on our trip to AZ back in Feb so we paid for a new prescription and pair of glasses and then he found the old pair a couple of weeks after we got home:) are not strong enough for him.

The boys are very much into football these days.  That is all they want to play.  "Daddy, will you come outside and play football" is heard around here quite often these days and he is very good about making time to play with them.  Today they played at lunch time and they are outside playing again now and they have been playing every evening lately.  They are loving it.  When they play games on the Kindle Fire they play some kind of football game also and they love watching it on TV....and they also play it with the other boys in the neighborhood so it is all the rage right now.

Guess who turned 8??!!  Ben is now an 8 year old and Nick will turn 8 in a little less than 5 weeks from now.  Boy, they grow up so fast and they are both getting so tall.  Last month Nick grew a half inch and Ben grew three quarters of an inch and Nick's foot is almost as big as mine already.  The other day I was sitting in the living room and noticed Ben at the kitchen sink and I thought he was standing on a step stool.  I was shocked when he walked away and had not been on a step stool at all.  That boy is getting tall!

The boys are both loving their P.E. class but they are not so much loving their art class so we won't take that class the next semester and this one will end in November.  They are still in swim lessons, which they have a love/hate relationship with at times (they mostly like it though, except when they wish they could stay home and play with neighbors).

I guess that is enough hodge podge for today.  I need to take a look at Ben's birthday pics and see if any are post worthy.  I'll check on that.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

August 28, 2013

After looking through our photos, I realize that I need to take more pics because we do not have very many recent ones and the ones we have are not all that great.  The boys like to take pictures of their Lego creations or whatever it is they find funny and those are not usually something I would want to post on my blog.  Here is pretty much all I found worth posting and many of these are questionable:).

These first 3 or 4 are from the early spring, as you can tell by the clothes they are wearing.

These next two were also from last spring when the boys and the dad went to a cub scout camping thing overnight.

The next pic is from a dress-up night at AWANA.

The following pic is from Nick's first piano recital and I think it was in May or maybe April.

This was from one morning the boys had 'built' a 'wagon'...the type pulled by a horse back in the old days.  They had a good time playing with this for a couple of days.

And these final pics are of the treehouse that the dad is building.  It is really coming along.  He is getting ready to build and put in the rope ladder next so they can actually start playing in it, even though he still has some things to do, such as put on the door and shutters.  He is working on the trap door thing that they will come up into when they climb the rope ladder.  The first picture below is from the front of the treehouse.  The rope ladder entrance will be in the back opposite corner of the one in the front of the first picture below.  There will also be a fireman's pole on the back corner that you can see in the first pic below.  Just above where the ladder is in the pic below there is a small gate.  Eventually this gate will open to a bridge to another tree which will have a small platform.  They will be able to stand on the platform to take off on a zip line that goes across the yard.  I'm not sure how long it will take to get all of that done but I have a feeling this project is will be an on-going effort for a while.  The boys are very excited about it.

As for how our school week is going this week, it is not:).  I had an unexpected dental appointment on Monday morning for a bad tooth that needs a new crown and Nick had his occupational therapy that day.  Between those two appointments, we really didn't have time to get anything done and we were all exhausted by the time we got home.  Yesterday we had another two appointments for which we had to go to the city once again and my sister came to visit when we got home.  We had not seen her in a while so we enjoyed her company for the day.  Last night we didn't get much sleep because of bad colds (Nick and Ben) and an eye infection (Nick) so we took a sick day today and we are taking it easy.  Fortunately I had scheduled a one week break for week after next so we won't end up taking that after all and this week will be that week.  It is nice that we can be so flexible.  If everyone gets a good night of sleep tonight, we will definitely be doing school work tomorrow and Friday.  I feel so lazy when we are not doing school.  But I know it would not have gone well today if I had tried because Nick and I both were running on very little sleep.  I don't have much patience when I have not had enough sleep and Nick gets frustrated easier when he has not had enough sleep, which we don't need and I don't want especially since things have been going so well here lately.  We will be back at it soon enough though.

That's it for today.  I will work on taking some better and more recent pics of the boys.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

August 22, 2013

I think we are finishing up our 1st month of school, or there abouts, and we have really gotten a lot done this first month.  More importantly, I think we have finally found a routine that is working for us and has us finishing up the day around 1:30-ish and with no fits and very little whining.  This is BIG news around here.  I think we just finished our best week of homeschooling ever and it was pretty amazing.

I have put together a check list of our various subjects and have divided it into the following categories:
*  Prepare for our day - includes making bed, tidying room, getting dressed, eating, and brushing teeth and hair.

*  "Let's remember to start our day off with a prayer"  (I'm ashamed to admit that I will frequently forget this if it is not on our checklist and it really does help us all to have a better day.

*  Subjects we all do together - includes Grammar, Spelling, History (Mon and Tues) / Science (Wed and Thurs or Thurs and Fri - depends on which day we take off, since we are schooling 4 days a week) and Memory Work.

*  Subjects you do individually with Mom - includes writing, math and read aloud to Mom.

*  Subjects you do independently - includes cursive practice, 30 minutes of fun read-to-self, 20 minutes of typing practice, piano practice, and sometimes I might assign a science or history library book for them to read-to-self.

I also list the once-a-week afternoon activities we are committed to each day, such as an hour and a half P.E. class, a two hour art class, Nick's 1 hour Occupation Therapy appt., 1 hour of piano lessons, 30 minutes of swimming lessons, a 1 hour almost-free Karate class at our church and an hour and a half of AWANAs.

We are not doing a co-op this year.  The one I really like did not have anything to fit our schedule this time so we will try again next year maybe.

Other big news around here is that after two and a half years of playing the violin, Ben has now switched to the piano and is having a ball.  He is so excited about it and loves to practice.  The great thing is that he no longer needs me to help him practice.  I always listen when Nick is practicing the piano and once in a great while I might go help him with something but, for the most part, I just provide encouragement and cheering, which works out quite nicely for keeping the peace around here.  The violin has so many different variables that have to be worked on that most children this young cannot really practice by themselves and really see good improvement.  Ben is really loving his independence of being able to practice the piano without me (and so am I!:).  It really has helped so much to streamline our school day and allow us to be able to fit piano practice in as another one of our subjects.  One child can be practicing the piano while I am doing math or writing with the other child.  Music practice is now getting done more regularly in our house than ever before and none of us are stressing about it now.  It used to be pushed to the end of the school day and they were ready for a break before practicing their music (and so was I!) and then it was a struggle for us to get back into gear and get it done.  What a relief this one change has made for all of us.  We'll see if it is still going this smoothly in another couple of months.

The other thing is I have started getting up a bit earlier and trying to finish my breakfast before the boys are ready to eat.  They spend a little time playing and by the time they are dressed and ready to eat, I am ready to start school.  So I usually read our grammar lesson to them while they are eating breakfast.  They are learning the parts of speech and memorizing the definitions and the lists of pronouns, linking/helping verbs, prepositions, etc. so they repeat back or recite definitions and lists between bites.  They are done eating before we finish our lesson so they do the written part after I finish the lecture part and then we move right into spelling.  We normally finish up these two subjects in about 30 minutes or so and then we move right on to history or science and memory work.  Grammar and spelling are pretty quick subjects to get done and we all end up feeling so positive about how our day is progressing as we fly through our morning lessons.  It really gets our day off to a great start.

I won't bore you with the details of the rest of our day but I am happy to report that things around here are really going well right now and it is really refreshing.  Nick even told me today that he is starting to like school now, which was quite an eye opener.

I must give all of the credit and glory for this vast improvement to God.  I have been praying about this and I know he is moving around here.  I believe we have gone through every day this week without one major attitude issue, which is amazing!  Thank you Lord!!

Friday, July 26, 2013

July 26, 2013

This was our first week back at school work since we took off sometime in May.  I think we were out around two months.  We are approximately one-half through 2nd grade so we are picking back up where we left off, starting with some light weeks and a bit of review also.  We school 4 days per week.  This week we took off Wednesday and schooled Mon, Tues, Thurs and Fri.  didn't do much of anything on Wednesday.  We had a very bad, long and loud thunderstorm Tuesday night (it even scared me a little) so Nick and I lost a lot of sleep that night.  Ben was also up for a short time but he went back to sleep next to the husband.  Nick and I were both awake from midnight to around 3:00 or later so that is why we ended up picking Wednesday for our day off.  I had planned to take off on  Thursday because the husband was off that day but it didn't work out that way.

Monday was probably our best day overall, because everything was new.  It wasn't really new but it had been a while so it seemed new to them.

This week we covered one chapter in History, continuing to use Story of The World II, the Middle Ages.  We read a chapter in the SOTW book about the Diaspora.  The boys answered the review questions in the Activity Guide and each one narrated one section of the chapter.  I am still writing down their narrations for them, although I will be working towards transitioning them to writing part of them sometime soon.  (This may be delayed due to Nick's fine motor skill delays.  He is in OT now so I am hoping to see improvement over the next 6 months or so.  We'll get there eventually.)  They also did the map work included in the Activity Guide and I printed out a blank world map and had them work together to identify all of the continents and oceans.  They were able to do it together pretty easily but I'm not so sure they could have done it separately so we will be practicing this more often.

The boys did one Math lesson each day using Christian Light Education Math for 2nd grade.  They are working on addition of numbers into the hundreds, with carrying/regrouping, practicing and memorizing their addition and subtraction facts through 20 (6+8, 14-8, etc.), measuring with a yardstick and learning how to calculate the number of inches in a yard and learning how much a pound feels like, versus two, three, five and ten.

I read aloud from School Days with the Millers (the boys love this book and their books always have a good moral/character/Christian lesson) and also from The Saturdays and a couple of books about Israel.  The boys read to themselves from The Paper Dragon, Raisel's Riddle, China's Bravest Girl, Fa Mulan, The Hunter (A Chinese Folktale), Adventures in Ancient China, Aseop's Fables and Christian Liberty Nature Readers.  Nick read a lot more than that in his spare time but this was official school reading.  Ben also read more than that but it was likely about Star Wars or Legos:).  At bedtime, the husband or I read aloud to them from their Bible, a children's devotion book and a book of their choice (they each pick one).

We covered three lessons in our grammar book (First Language Lessons 2).  We reviewed all of the poems they are memorizing (I think there are 5 or 6 of them so far) and we also reviewed the definition of an Adverb and we used them in sentences (orally) and such.  They also had to write sentences from dictation, which included adverbs and also figuring out where the punctuation marks go and which ones to use.  I had planned to cover four lessons in grammar this week but I didn't get around to buying postcards.  Our next lesson is about addressing postcards so I need to get some this weekend so we can do this on Monday.  I could have just used index cards but it is much more fun for them if it is real, it is for someone they know and they actually get to mail it.

For writing we are using Writing With Ease 2, which follows the same pattern each week and I do this with them separately.  Day 1 I read a passage to each of them, ask them some review questions and they answer in complete sentences and then they narrate and I write their narration for them.  Day 2 is copy work from the passage read on Day 1.  Day 3 is dictation; the same sentence(s) they wrote for copy work on Day 2.  Day 4 is narration of another passage of the same story/poem (this week was the Pied Piper of Hamelin), review questions and narration.  I write the narration for them and then I dictate some it back to them and they write that part.  This week, we only finished days 1 through 3 so I hope to make up day 4 either this weekend sometime or double up work one day next week.  I hate it when one week of this work gets divided over multiple weeks so we will try to catch up somewhere.

We finished a chapter in our spelling book (All About Spelling 2) and we were suppose to start a new chapter today but didn't get to it.  We did review open versus closed syllables and vowel-consonent-e type words but that was as far as we got.  We will make this work up when we make up our writing work.  For spelling I reviewed some of the spelling rules we had most recently been studying.  Then we go through some words they are to spell; I tell them a word and they write it on their small white board.  This week they were spelling words like rose and others that have the 'z' sound spelled with an s.  They also wrote 6 short sentences on their small white boards that I dictated to them, which were made up of spelling words from the chapter.

I decided to pick up two cursive books for the boys to have a refresher course.  They had one course of cursive at the beginning of 1st grade so I thought it was time for a refresher.  They do all of their FLL (grammar) and WWE (writing) work in cursive so they are getting regular practice but it is easy for it to become a bit more sloppy or messy over time.  So they started today (using Handwriting without Tears Cursive for 3rd Grade) and did one page.  They will continue to do one page most days and work their way through the book eventually.

The boys went to swimming lessons on Thursday, where they are working on fine tuning some strokes. This is a thirty minute class with 4 kids to 1 instructor.  They were graded and are very close to finishing level 4 but just not quite there on a couple of their strokes.  After level 4, they can join the swim team.

Ben went to violin lesson on Tuesday and Nick went to piano lesson on Wednesday.  Both boys practice their music after we finish school and I try hard to make sure they do this at least 5 days a week.  We don't always hit that; sometimes it is 4 times a week, but we try.  Frankly I am ready for them to quit lessons because I am tired of fighting with them to get them to do their practice (especially Nick).

I think that was about all we did this week, for our first week back to school.  It feels good to be back.  I promised the boys a night out to a fun place around here that has good eats and an arcade so that is on the agenda for tonight.  I was planning to go but lost a lot of sleep again last night due to another thunderstorm so I am hoping to get away with staying home and let the guys go together.  We'll see how the husband feels about that:).

Whew, that picture of the boys on this blog is really old.  I think they were five!  They will be 8 this fall so I really  need to update that sometime.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

May 9, 2013

The nicest couple has moved in next door to us back in January I think.  They have the cutest 3 year old son and 1.5 year old daughter and my two sons really love playing with them.  In particular, Nick has really hit it off with their son and they both love playing together.  It is interesting because of the large age gap but it doesn't seem to bother either of them and they just play together so well.  Nick is very sweet with the 3 year old (almost 4).  He really acts like an older brother with him, probably with less fighting.  It is really sweet to watch.  Ben really enjoys playing with the neighbor children's toys more than he enjoys playing with the neighbor children:).

So every day when we finish school, the first thing the boys want to do is see if M (the neighbor boy) ickcan play.  Their mom is so sweet and she loves having the boys over.  She says they keep her son busy and they all play well together.  She said it gives her a break.  It definitely gives me long breaks.  Sometimes they go over there around 12:30 and stay until 5:30 or 6:00.  They usually play outside until around 4:00ish and then they all go in and she gets dinner started while the kids play inside.  I normally go over and visit with her for a while, sometimes while they are outside and sometimes after they have gone in.  Sometimes they will all come over into our back yard and play in our sandbox.  The mom is so nice and we get along very well. Her son, M, has been over here to play inside only once.  I told her today that she should start sending M over here to play during the daughter's nap so that she (the mom) could have a break or, if she needs to go shopping or something that her son could stay here and play with my sons.  I would feel a little better if we switched off a little.  I end up feeling that I am getting all of the breaks and she always has all of the kids, even though she insists that it is a break for her when my sons are there because they keep her son entertained.  Anyway, for now, the kids are enjoying playing together and it is really sweet to watch Nick playing with this little almost-4 year old and treating him so kindly. 

It is kind of funny and I even start missing Nick and Ben at times.  I got outside and did the weed-whacking of the front and side yards today, since the boys were next door playing and I have mowed the yard the past two weeks, although the husband was home and working in the yard when I did that.  He has been staying busy building a tree house for the boys.  It is coming along slowly, since he does not have a lot of time to devote to it, but he is really doing a stellar job on it and it will be very sturdy and safe when he is finished.

Well, that is it for tonight.  I will try to post more soon and to post some pictures (I know I keep promising that and I have not delivered but I have very good intentions:).

Thursday, February 21, 2013

February 21, 2013

Wow, it has been a while.  I have thought of posting often and started a couple that I then deleted.  I simply have not had much to write about lately.  Today we had something funny happen though that I want to write down.  It is a lot of fun to come back in a couple of years and read the funny things the boys did and said when they were younger.

We had a pretty good snow storm yesterday (pretty good for this area) and the boys had a ball playing in it.  It was a very wet snow so it was great for building huge snow boulders, snow men and forts and such.  The boys also really enjoyed sliding down the back side of the pond bank across the street from where we live.

While they had a wonderful time, at some point during the day, Mr. Nick. somehow misplaced his glasses.  We have looked high and low but have not found them.  We are soon leaving for a 2 week trip (driving) to AZ to visit family and friends so we wanted to get his glasses replaced before we leave.  Today I took him to a local fast place, where they make your glasses within an hour or so.  Since it had been 7 months since he had his last eye exam, we decided to go ahead and have another one.  The lady was checking his eyes and had him standing in front of this machine with his chin in a little cup and his forehead against this bar.  He was staring into the machine and the lady said "open wide".  I happened to look at him at that moment and saw him open his mouth really big.  It was so funny, it took everything I had not to burst out laughing.  I quickly and quietly told him to open his eyes real big, not his mouth.  It was really cute, although it may have been one of those moments when you just had to be there, in the moment, for it to be funny.

Ben has had a very hard time with Nick having glasses and him not having them.  He has wanted them since Nick got them and we never hear the end of it.  He has tried very hard to make due with sun glasses, even wearing them around, inside of the house.  Today when we were at the cheapie eye glasses store I asked them if they sold any really cheap frames with plastic lenses for children who just want to pretend.  They did!  I was so surprised and Ben was so happy.  So now he is sporting these black plastic round-ish, somewhat Harry Potter-ish looking glasses and he absolutely loves them.  He actually looks pretty cute in them too, but then I am kind of biased.

Nick's new glasses look really nice and they were quite a bit cheaper than his first pair.  Hopefully these will last for a year this time.  His eyes had gotten a bit worse so he kind of needed an updated script anyway.  He was impressed with how much better he could see now, although some of that is probably because he was without any glasses for about 24 hours or so.

So, we are getting ready to leave for a vacation and we are in desperate need of one.  Thankfully my brother has agreed to house/cat sit for us while we are gone.  We are driving through New Mexico and planning to stay over in Albuquerque and then on to Flagstaff where we are going to stay for a couple of days.  We are hoping to give the boys a chance to try their hand at skiing or snow boarding and we are also planning to take a day trip from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon.  Then it will be on to Phoenix and Tucson for visiting with family and friends.

The husband's practice has picked up quite a bit and he is also still working full time at the urgent care job an hour and a half from here.  There are times, when he is scheduled to work the weekend at the urgent care, that he will work almost two full weeks without a day off.  It is very tiring and stressful at times for all of us because, when he is working that many hours, I am too and I don't have a break either. So it will be good for all of us to take a nice long break and then we will be one step closer to spring time when we return.

We have had a really mild winter here though and it has been really nice.  The boys have been able to play outside most days, which they love.  They are both doing very well in school also.

We have had some cold nights and have really enjoyed our fireplace this winter.  We didn't use it much last winter but we are using it a lot this winter and it is so lovely.  I love having a wood burning fireplace.  I love the smell and the warmth it adds to the house and the lovely ambiance.  Yesterday evening I built a fire around 5:00pm and added some wood to it around 8:00.  It was still going strong when I went to bed and Dancer-the-cat was sleeping in front of it on the basket of pillows and blankets.  He likes it a lot too.

I can tell that Dancer-the-cat is starting to go down hill a bit.  He is getting a bit slower and I can tell he is not making his jumps as well as he normally has in the past.  He is definitely getting weaker.  He is about 15 years old now though, so I guess that might be fairly normal.  He sure is loving being able to go outside and goes out every chance he gets.  Yesterday was the first time he has been out in the snow and he didn't care for it a bit.  He loves sunny days though and, even if it is cold, he will find a protected spot in the sun and sleep out there.

Tinkerbell-the-cat, a.k.a. Tinky or Tinky-Winky, is still her naughty self about attacking Dancer.  She is doing a bit better about it though and she actually minds pretty well a lot of the time, for a cat.  She is getting a bit tubby but she only eats dry cat food so I am thinking she is just going through a phase and will grow out of it:).  I hope I am just going through a phase and will grow out of mine too.  She has become very sweet to me, most of the time, although there are times when I pick her up and she does not want to be picked up when she will try to bite me.  She is a little less tolerant of others than she is of me though.  She is not very tolerant of the husband at all and I am not quite sure why.  She tries to bite him almost every time he tries to pet her.  I told him maybe he needs to give her a few treats or something.  Maybe it is because he is not around as much as the rest of us and, when he is around, he stays pretty busy so he does not pet her or interact with her much at all.

We have new neighbors next door and they seem really sweet.  They have a one year old daughter and a three year old son and my sons love playing with their son.  They all had fun in the snow together yesterday.  The boys are so sweet with their son and they really enjoy him.  He was throwing snowballs at Nick yesterday and Nick would pretend it knocked him over into the snow.  Their son thought that was so funny.

School is going pretty well overall and we started 2nd grade in January in most subjects.  We are still in 1st grade math because it has taken me a while to figure out which math curriculum I liked best and which one worked best for the boys.  I'm still not quite sure we have it right but we are trucking along and they are both learning a lot.  In everything else the boys are now doing 2nd grade work, although Nick really does not care for writing much and that is not changing as quickly as the writing requirements for 2nd grade is changing.  I try to adjust it a bit for him when I think I need to but he can really do much more than he cares to do so I try to find the right amount.  His handwriting is actually quite nice when he wants it to be.

I can hardly believe the boys are now 7 years old.  The husband and I just had our 8th wedding anniversary also, which seems impossible.  Time goes by so quickly, it seems.  My birthday is coming up in a couple of days and I will be the big 50 this year.  Yikes!  I don't feel 50 inside of my head/mind but I think I do look it when I look in the mirror, especially on days like today when I am not wearing make-up. 

I know I really need to post some updated pics of the boys.  I have a new little laptop though and I have not yet loaded any pics on it so I need to do that first.  Hopefully I can get some uploaded sometime soon.  I need to go now and get some things done but I will try to start updating more often, if I have anything to report:).

Saturday, November 10, 2012

November 10, 2012

I thought I would post some pictures of our history timeline for others to see.  I put this on the wall in our hallway with painter's tape and a level. I modeled it after another I had seen somewhere that is available for purchase and I used their dimensions and time increments.

In retrospect, I should have made it longer and wider and I wish I had broken the time increments down further for our ancients study.  I used timeline figures from Home School in the Woods so maybe their figures are larger than the ones for the kit after which I modeled my timeline.  Anyway, here it is:


Monday, October 29, 2012

October 29, 2012

Today is a normal old Monday for us and this is what we have done so far:

History:  We have been studying ancient history during our 1st grade year (yes, me too!:).  At the end of last week, we had just read about the death of Julius Caesar.  Today we were reading about his adopted son (his nephew) Octavian Caesar, renamed to Augustus Caesar.  The curriculum we are using (Story of the World - SOTW) comes with a coloring page and the boys always enjoy coloring their page while I read the chapter.  After we read, they each take turns narrating what we read and I write it down for them.  (In 2nd grade they will start writing part of it themselves.)  After I write their narration, they usually read it back.  Then they do some map work.  SOTW comes with the maps and has instructions of what they are to do.  I read the instructions, such as: Use yellow to shade in the area that was Rome when Augustus Caesar ruled.  What sea was within the Roman empire during this time?  Use blue to shade in the sea.  Circle the country where Cleopatra ruled., etc.  After they did their map work, we were finished with history for the day.  If the chapter is a longer one or of greater importance, or if we just want to dive deeper into that subject because it was very interesting, we will read library books on the topic(s) on Wednesday and will do additional narrations.  Otherwise, we move on to the next chapter.  There are 42 chapters in our book that we will complete in 36 weeks of school.

Writing:  Next we did writing (Writing With Ease).  This changes from day to day.  The boys really enjoy history and science so they normally choose to do those first (history on Mon/Wed and science on Tues/Thurs).  What comes next changes from day to day, depending on our mood.  Today for writing the boys did some copy work.  They copied the first stanza from the poem, "The Sandpiper".  They were learning that the first letter in each line of a poem is capitalized and they were also learning about the punctuation in the piece.  Tomorrow I will read the entire poem to them.  They will then answer comprehension questions, narrate and copy their narration.  They are doing all of their writing and copy work in cursive these days.

Read-to-self:  The boys each pick a library book to read.  Sometimes this is Assigned Reading and they will read something related to our history study.  Today they picked something for fun reading from the library books that I have picked out for them.  We read for 40 minutes.

Bible Study:  Next we did our Bible study, using Bible Study Guide for All Ages, which the boys really like.  We review what we have been studying, then we cover new material.  Today was about important people in the genealogy of Jesus.  We have also been studying about King Nebuchadnezzar and his dream and about Daniel.  Then we do some timeline and map work about what we are studying.

Spelling:  After Bible study, we did some spelling work today, using All About Spelling.  We are working on when to use 'k' and when to use 'ck' at the end of a word.  I reminded them of the rule we are working on and then I dictated 6 or 7 spelling words and 6 phrases with two words in each phrase.  They write them on small white boards.  The first time a word is missed, I mark it in my book with N, B or both.  I dictate those words again in the next lesson.  If the same person  misses the same word a second time, I have them write the word correctly 5 times, or something like that and I give them the same word again in the next lesson.  They have never missed a word again after this.  In our lesson tomorrow, we will cover any missed words they are working on and then I will dictate 6 more phrases.  Once they spell all of the phrases correctly, we are ready to move on to the next chapter.

Now it is after spelling and we are taking our break and getting ready to eat lunch.  After lunch, we still have to do math (we are doing two lessons a day for now from Christian Light Education math), read aloud (we are reading The Secret Garden) and English (First Language Lessons).  And we also have to go to Nick's piano lesson, return books to the library and get more, return a dvd to the rental store and I really need to take Dancer to the vet because something is wrong with the skin on his chin.

Then we will come back home, Ben will practice his violin and the boys will probably want to play their on-line games (15 minutes each).  We will eat dinner and they will also probably want to watch a movie (30 minutes).

It is beautiful here today.  The boys have been playing outside a lot these days and are doing so today during our break.  I must go fix lunch and get back to work:).