Sunday, December 30, 2007

New Year Resolutions

I figure that if I write these down this year, I will be held more accountable to them. Otherwise I can just pretend at a later time that I wasn't serious! So here goes:

  1. Start each day with God's Word - no matter what (this takes priority over sleep, showers, etc.)
  2. Start Adam's food allergy rotation diet (include Reagan to see if her skin improves also).
  3. Start journaling all of my own food intake -> no more sugar, white flour, or processed foods!
  4. Get as much sleep as I possibly can each night (depending on baby's feedings) - don't waste any time in evening when I can be sleeping.
  5. Don't yell at the kids - speak in a calm tone at all times (especially when I am frustrated or irritated - what better way to teach them by example!).
  6. Walk for 20 minutes each day OR do 20 minutes Pilates.
  7. Pray over each child as they sleep each night.
  8. Make sure that each day's lessons are completely ready b4 going to bed (w/ the baby, I have no time to waste in the morning routine).

Wow! These are going to be tough to stick to - any one or more of them could slide. I struggle with each in a different way. But thankfully, Jesus is my strength and He wants me to be the best person that I can be! I think that if #1 is priority, then it will definately help the rest, right? ;-)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

True Christmas Lessons

Amazing how busy I can be WITHOUT teaching school! But I guess I just feel like I've got so many things that can be done while we are taking a break, that it turns out not to really be a break (for me anyway). But I'm not complaining - I love getting things done, making progress on projects, checking things off of "The List." Those of you with this type of personality understand what I mean. It's always easier for me to keep house, run errands and cook meals than to manage school first and put those other things aside for second. Teaching and planning lessons is always more challenging than regular menial daily tasks. So although I'm busy, it sure is a nice break for all of us!

Christmas was a wonderful time (although hectic, as usual) for us this year! We are so blessed to have most of our family close enough to visit at the holidays. We were all sick (thankfully, not hospital sick) and had to keep 11 boxes of tissues around the house. But there is always enough excitement for opening gifts, eating cookies, and laying around in a turkey coma to get past a head cold! My sister and her new dh are finally on the east coast again so it was especially nice to see them this year (although the kids were more excited about their new dogs than seeing Auntie M). It was the first time for them to meet little Lincoln. And my mom's cooking! All I can say is 'Holy Cow!' - yum! What a true gift that she (and also my mil) let me have a break from cooking or meal planning this, Lincoln's first Christmas.

This year Jefferson received quite a few "kit" type gifts which required much assembly time and help from Daddy. He just eats that stuff up and it occupies him for hours! They really help him develop focus and determination. He loves to follow the directions to achieve something 'cool' in the end. Not to mention how great it is to have 'Daddy' time!

In the same line of thought, we gave Reagan a Lite Brite. I was thrilled at how she already knows her colors and the letters with which they start. She was forced to concentrate on using her fine motor skills to get the pegs in the right positions. I liked this gift because she also learned to continue through to the end where she was rewarded with something nice to look at to show her work. The beautiful wooden easel she recieved from my mom will be great in encouraging her sensory learning skills - she just loves to be creative!

As far as 'toys' go, Dh got a very nice remote control atv and raced it against his dad and bil all afternoon. Jefferson and the rest of the cousins were thrilled with this! Obviously no learning skills involved here! Just plain ol' fun! And I have been pulling my hair out trying to figure out how to run off the energy that the kids have when they are stuck inside in the winter. Found a small trampoline to use inside. It gets them moving and also encourages their health by moving the lymph system (gravity system). The kids all LOVE it!
Here are some shots of the fun with our gift - a new dig cam:

Amidst the chaos and the clutter of paper and leftover bubble wrap, I remember thinking "Even though the kids are excited, this is my least favorite part of Christmas." Each year as they get older and more knowledgeable of the true reason for the season, I wonder if they are just learning head knowledge about the birth of Jesus or if they are understanding it's importance. With so many gifts coming at them from every person and direction, how can we keep them from focusing on the materialistic and often dominate part of this 'hoiliday'? I can only control what we teach them and how many gifts we buy for them. But even there, I find myself wanting to load them up with all kinds of presents in order to bring them joy (even knowing full well that this doesn't bring true joy). Then I later don't understand how they show such little appreciation for these things. It's no wonder really - how can these little minds even focus long enough on one gift to enjoy and appreciate it when another is being thrown at them 3 seconds later? They are encouraged to be impatient (rip & tear hastily, "When can we open, when, when, when?") and selfish ("How many are for me?", "Do I get more?")! Am I right? Do other believers struggle with this as well?

How is 3 minutes singing 'Happy Birthday' to Jesus around a cake and even a couple minutes reading the Christmas story from the Bible supposed to compare in young minds that learn so easily from cultural 'things' and are only just learning the difference between Truth and that which isn't? So all this to say that I'm always looking for ideas on how to live the truth of the Lord through the Christmas season so that my children will value the things which should be valued - Jesus's birth, His blessings, family, friends, nice weather, good food, etc. What types of things do you do with your kids to encourage selflessness and giving in this season of God's gift to us?
I will say that until now, the kids haven't really been old enough to know how to take initiative to give to others. Last year we shopped for things for the local charity, which Jefferson didn't seem to remember this year when I brought it up again. And when we are choosing which existing toys that we are going to give away in expectation of recieving more, they don't choose their 'good' ones. However, this year Jefferson got a chance to "shop" for us at our homeschool co-op. He was so excited about what he got for us that I think he started to understand how nice it really is to give instead of get! So, we will continue to encourage this throughout the year. But other ideas from families with different traditions are also welcome!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Goals for starting the New Year!

I am glad to have decided to take this week B4 Christmas off instead of stressing about trying to fit everything in. I remember speaking to a teacher friend of mine (r.g.) last year as I struggled with both trying to "fit it all in" and "comparing" Jefferson's progress (to other hschoolers and to schoolers). He helped me to reassess what my true goals for teaching Jefferson should be. So as we start the 2nd half of the year after Christmas, these are what I will try to remember:

1. Relax! Take a week off when needed. Yes, I can do this. Do some fun (and educational if I can slip it in) things like field trips or play dates. Take time out to review what I'm are doing and look at things that aren't working. Figure out why those things aren't working and come up with a plan to adjust things to fit everyone's needs.
2. Be flexible. When I start up again, be flexible with my new plans or ideas. If something isn't working again/still don't force it. Don't expect perfection from Jefferson or myself. Don't let the 'schedule' rule over the lessons or Jefferson's abilities.
3. Don't use a band-aid fix for anything. Everything has an underlying reason. If I just ignore problems, they will just continue in different ways. Therefore, always communicate!
4. Enjoy my children. Have fun with them. Let them have fun learning. Watch them as they "get it" and their eyes get wide and the smile spreads across their face. Try to offer choices as often as possible so that they are motivated to learn.
5. Schedule family time. I often feel like I'm so focused on checking things off the lesson plan that we forget to plan family fun time. I notice that this affects the behavior of the little ones that aren't doing school with Jefferson and then that behavior affects my attitude which then also affects the family! Try picking an evening each week for a fun family activity.
6. Checking things off a lesson list should not be my focus. My goal is for Jefferson to comprehend what is being taught and for him to learn to deal with his own frustrations so that he can love to learn!

These may seem obvious to experienced homeschoolers, but are important lessons for we amateurs to learn so that we can give our kids a good foundation prior to the logic and rhetoric stages. I call them my soft, long term plans for homeschooling. But as far as Jefferson's comprehension and actual skill level for 1st grade goes, I have set up some more specific, short term goals for his classical education this year. For those of you interested, I have them listed below.

For those of you unfamiliar with a Classical Education, here is my personal short (and I mean, short - it's really so much more than this) summary -->
First Goal: train them to educate themselves
train them to get past frustration
Classical Education – Train the mind through the Trivium:
Grades 1-4: Absorption (grammar stage)
Grades 5-8: Critical Thinking (logic stage)
Grades 9-12: Expression (rhetoric stage)
Priority in Grammar stage->
then History
Language (Latin/Spanish)

Check these links for more information on classical education, the trivium, The Well-Trained Mind, Ten Things to Do with Your Child Before Age 10(this one is a great informative summary).

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Adjusting our schedule - a lesson in flexibility

Thank the Lord, we are home with Lincoln this week! He was only in the hospital for 2 days and is improving quickly at home. It was, however, quite a test for me in scheduling school. I already feel a bit tight this year due to having taken time off to have Lincoln. I was hoping to get at least one more week of school in before Christmas. But as though of you who have homeschooled longer than I already know, things don't always work out the way we plan! I guess we will just be using this week to focus on getting Lincoln completely well (and Reagan as well - this week it's conjunctivitus for her!), decorating for Christmas (yes - I am really this late), baking (and eating, of course) cookies, and catching up on housework and other things that I let go while in the hospital.

I also need to make sure that I have our books in order for history and science when we start back into those after Christmas. We are currently reading as many readers as I can get my hands on from the library. Jefferson is still a reluctant reader - it just doesn't go smoothly enough for him to enjoy yet. I really hope that we can move on to simple chapter books by the end of first grade! So I need to remember to keep him reading, reading, reading every day - even when he doesn't want to. Currently dh is reading him "Captain Courageous" at bedtime - he loves the action! They will move onto Prince Caspian soon since that movie will be coming out in May. Be sure to check out the preview - I can't wait to see it!

Looking for input for keeping track of the books we have read this year (my first year of structured teaching - 1st grade). Any ideas are welcome! Should I write down every single book we read together, every one that he reads, every one that we get from the library or only the ones that relate to our studies? I need to figure this out so I know what to do for next year and for each of my other kids. I don't want to get bogged down with details, but I want to save myself having to look up the same books in the coming years with the other kids. I think a simple spreadsheet would work for this and the library prints out a list for me with each visit so .....

Since we aren't doing school this week, I thought I could take this time to post an answer to a tag from Trivium Academy. I'm new to blogging to forgive me if I've just stolen this tag rather than actually being 'tagged'. I just thought it was cute and good way for readers to get to know me! So here goes :

8 Things I'm passionate about
my marriage (it's priority)
my kids
homebirth (women's choice in labor)
God's beautiful creation - nature

8 Things I Want To Do Before I Die
make bible time a solid daily habit
earn a black belt in karate
see my children marry godly spouses and train up their kids in God's word
learn to speak, read, and write fluent Spanish
learn to use sign language fluently
to have a strong relationship with my children as adults
make exercise and good nutrition a daily habit (conquer my gluttony)
become an amazing piano player who can play in front of others
organize my life and house - I love being organized
overcome my fears and speak to others about Jesus more freely

8 Things I say Often
Focus, Jefferson
Holy cow!
...the size of Montana! (don't know where this one came from)
Shut it!
Whatever (yes the kids get this poor attitude from me!)
If you fuss, you don't get what you want!!
Yes, I forgive you because I love you.
Are you dry? (Reagan still having pee-pee accidents 1 to 5 times a day!)

8 Books I've read recently
A Bride Most Begrudging (Deeanne Gist)
The Well-Trained Mind (Susan Wise)
Raising Healthy Kids in Spite of Your Doctor (Dr. Robert S. Mendehlson)
The Measure of a Lady (Deeanne Gist)
Allergy Free
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth (Ina May Gaskin)
The Maker's Diet (Jordan Rubin)
Approval Addiction (Joyce Meyers)

8 Songs I could listen to over and over
Cecelia (Simon & Garfunkel)
Yellow (Coldplay)
He's My Son (Mark Schultz)
I'll Be Here (Steven Curtis Chapman)
I am the Moon with No light of My Own? (Ginny Owens?)
Claire de Lune (Claude Debussy)
Billy the Kid (Aaron Copeland) - lots of nostalgia with this one!
The Four Seasons (Vivaldi)

8 Things I've learned this year
I am not in control - God is sovereign
Having a baby at home is an awesome experience!
God's grace will cover my children from my inadequacies
Homeschooling required lots of organization
I love to be with dh and kids more than anywhere else in the world!
Good nutrition makes a huge and noticable difference in my life and my family's too
I miss scrapbooking and should take more time for me do this creative release

8 people to tag
new to blogging and don't have enough people to tag yet!

Whoever would like to do this, just put the link in the comments.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Important Things in This Life

Today the Lord decided to remind me which things in life are really important. I have been a bit overwhelmed in trying to teach Jefferson, while adjusting to life with four kids all the while living through the holiday hooplah. After managing to miraculously get 4 days of lessons in, I was still beating myself up about not fitting the history or science lessons. I was stressed about getting gifts mailed out in time. I was irritated at the state of disarray around the entire house. I was frustrated that I couldn't get anything substantial completed in a day due to feeding the baby every 3 hours. And when even the littlest thing didn't go as I expected, I held a mini pity-party for myself!

But this morning when Lincoln wouldn't eat, had a fever and sounded funny when he breathed, I knew something more serious was wrong. Something worse than a few dirty dishes and hollaring kids. After a week of fighting a the nasty virus that had run it's terrible course through each of the rest of us, he was unable to keep it from getting into his lungs. I took him to the dr and then to x-rays where it was determined that he had pneumonia and would have to be admitted to the hospital for iv antibiotics. Now here is some real stress for a mom! You moms know exactly what I mean!

What I'm saying is that sometimes it takes a serious situation to remind us not to take our precious health, our families, for granted! To make us stop for a while and repent of our complaining and whining about the little things. God wants us to think eternally rather than only of the here and now. He has given us these precious children as a gift - a heritage - that He wants us to not only take care of, but also to enjoy. How can I do this if I am worried about the rice crispies on the floor or getting dinner ready right on time? What about my daughter's tangled hair or the ripped pages of the book on the foor? If I am distracted about these things, I will miss the beauty of their childhood!

We don't know how long we will have them but we know that they belong to Him. I am so thankful that God made them and that He loaned them to us for a time. How long will I be in the hospital with little Lincoln? Long enough to ruin my plans for the weekend and the next schoolweek. But also long enough remind me of the important things in this life!

Dear Hubby

My boys - Jefferson, Adam, and tiny Lincoln!

Lincoln @ 5 days old

We call Reagan "Little Bolt of Lightning"

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Daily Schedule

A little bit about my experience with our homeschooling daily schedule this year. Last year was kindergarten and I basically spent 1/2 hr each day on phonics and 1/2 hour on math. Some days we hit and some days we missed. Jefferson soaked it up quickly because that's what little kids do, and I stressed about how little time I was actually spending teaching him.

Fast forward to this year - 1st grade was a daunting task for me since I didn't quite know what direction to go with curriculum. But what I did know was that we couldn't dawdle around as much, or Jefferson wouldn't just 'get' all that he needed to be exposed to. So as I adjusted his curriculum, I also planned out a daily schedule to keep us on better track.

And it worked well for us (before the baby was born 10 weeks into the year)! I thrive in structure and since Jefferson is my photocopy, he does also (not that he knows it yet). I looked forward each day to knowing what we could get done and not having to spend all day wondering if we could get it all done. Jefferson just liked knowing when we would be finished so he could get back to playing. Except for a few hiccups (sickness, unexpected errands), we accomplished great things with this schedule! I would recommend putting your schedule on paper if you are the type of person that would gain benefit from this practice.

However, if this type of structure doesn't suit your personality (or that of your child), it may well box you in instead. Or it may make you feel more stress if you find yourself being inflexible within it. Some days I've had to step back and remind myself that my goal in each day is not to checklist "The Schedule" but to make sure that Jefferson is comprehending the topics of the daily lessons. And now, I am finding that in the weeks since we've had the baby (our 4th), the daily schedule is not working nearly as well for us. After all, a baby doesn't know how to tell time, right? :-)

So instead of working with my original daily schedule (shown below), I'm wondering if I need to revamp it and reprint it (it hangs on our bulletin board so that the kids can see it). Or maybe I'm finding that I don't need it as much since I've gotten used to fitting in the lessons any which way around the baby's feedings and naps. And Jefferson hasn't shown much concern that we don't do everything the same way as before Lincoln came along - again, he just wants to know when he can play! I think that the solution here, since I am familiar with just how much time that he needs to be spending on each lesson, is for me to make a more generalized schedule showing only the subject matter along with the amount of time we should spend in it. This may also allow us to breathe a little more freely each day.

Again, for you experienced homeschool moms, this may seem like a silly or unimportant blog topic. But for me, with four kids, structure always improves life (especially as I seem to be losing brain cells with each birth!). I want to figure out what works best for me and for my students, as well as staying flexible enough to change when necessary.

So feel free to take a look and see what you think!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Week 13 Offline Already!

We're only in day two and already our lessons for week 13 have been derailed. Yesterday I was in the worst day of my head cold while Adam was working on a earache. He screamed and fussed for most of the day while I tried to read instructions with almost no voice left and a sinus headache. Not to mention that J&R were cranky after a weekend with their grandparents. Amazingly, we only skipped our history lesson (which as you can see from my yearly plan, we don't have much room to skip!).

Skip to today, when the contractor arrived a.m. to replace an outside door, forcing me to place all three kids in the basement play area in order to keep them away from the door. By the time the door was finished, Adam was feeling better, but Jefferson had the telltale signs of this nasty bug and poor 6-week old Lincoln started barking like a seal. This ensures me that tomorrow will be all but shot, with a doctors' visit and a sick 1st grader.

So my question is this - how does one teach under these circumstances? The Lord has helped me to provide more structure for Jefferson this year and has given me the perserverence to keep on keeping on. He has guided me to begin Jefferson in a structured classical education rather than choosing an easy all-in-one curriculum. I have been thrilled to watch him learn to read and shared in his excitement of discovery over and over. What blessings God has given me in homeschooling! But there are times when I am sure that the enemy just wants to add to my stress and lay guilt on my shoulders by messing up our already tight schedule for the year. The responsibility to educate my children at home is a heavy one - one that I take very seriously. I don't want to fail in my stewardship of these beautiful children!

So I will do tonight what I know I have some control over - I will pray. God is soveriegn and He is faithful to provide the time, patience, health, and wisdom that I need to obey Him in His calling to teach my little loves at homes. I will give God back the control that I thought I had. And tomorrow, we will try again!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Yearly Lesson Plan

Here I am blogging when I should be making sure that tomorrow's lessons are ready (this is typical of mybloodline -just ask my father). Especially since last schoolweek was almost a bust! After having made a 1st grade yearly plan, I am all too aware of how much flex time we have if we want to meet our goals by the end of June! Having a baby in the middle of the year really tightened things up for us, leaving us with shorter holiday breaks than we would normally have. But ... what I love about the yearly plan is that it keeps me on track. And it actually even lowers my stress level by letting me stay aware of which subjects or lessons can be shifted or skipped when other things in life get in the way (I can't tell you how often my 2-year old is sick and miserable!).

My inspiration for this organization has no doubt been someone else - I don't have the time to think of everything for school myself. So I frequently visit my favorite super-mom homeschool blog,, to gather from her immense library of homeschooling tools, ideas, lesson plans, and encouraging posts and links. Wow -what a great source of information and support. If you're interested in classically homeschooling your kids, this is a link that should be on your favorites! And because she is so willing to take her time to post links and tools for others, I too will try to do the same. Even though I am new to home schooling, I hope that this blog may be of some help to someone at some time.

Anyway, here is my yearly plan for this year. I will expound upon the different curriculum choices I've made for each subject at another time.

Our new digital video camera

We got this video in the time we spent in what I call "New Tiny Baby" school break. We planned four weeks off from Lincoln's birth and used some of it to explore our new digital video camera. It takes great clips, is small and convenient to use, and can burn a dvd when docked. It is called the RCA Memory Maker (see and we really like it. It's so easy to use that Jefferson will soon be using it and learning more about computers in doing so. Isn't there a lesson in everything? I can't wait to catch all kinds of clips of Jefferson's school activities with it! But for now, we enjoy the simple pleasure of a baby's first smile!