Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - The Reason for the Season

Hope you had a most blessed Christmas!


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Starting a Fire on a Snowday....

....requires small children and an overzealous daddy with a HAND-CRANK flashlight (oooooohhhhh how I have ragged him about that silly flashlight - makes me giggle just thinking 'bout it)!

Starting a Fire on a Snowday.... from DNAC on Vimeo.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Eye Contact - rethinking how we communicate with our kids

I came upon this post recently and it brought to mind some of the things that I've already been thinking about around here with Adam. I haven't had time to share since I don't post often but our little Adam, 4yo, has had speech delays and is in weekly speech therapy for the past 18 months.

When he was younger, I often worried about his lack of eye contact. I would constantly ask him to look at me while I spoke to him and he would constantly glance at me and shift his eyes away. He would look at others but not when he spoke (if he did at all) or when they spoke to him. And with rates of Autism in children increasing so exponentially these days, I was definitely concerned.

It wasn't until our wonderful speech therapist was working with him on a regular basis that she informed me that, especially in children with processing delays or fine motor problems, having to use both their eyes AND their ears to pay attention to us as we speak to them only makes it more difficult for them to process the information that we are giving them!  I was quite surprised  - I mean after all, we are all taught that direct eye contact is a good thing in communication, right?  I had just assumed that this is how we were to teach our kids to speak/listen to others.  This is the point that the post  at 'Beautiful Canvas' makes - our assumption may be wrong!

I felt like as soon as the therapist gave me new info on this, I understood his shifty eye contact right away.  He had tried to obey me but could not take in my instructions with both his ears and eyes at the same time.  And it seems that it is not unusual for both these developing parts of the brain, auditory and visual, to be delayed together - we were already aware of the auditory delays associated with his speech delay. 

Of course, I proceeded to test this out by leaning my head down to his ear and speaking instructions into his ear first, and only then, raising my head to ask that he looked in my eye to say "Ok."  In the bit it took me to raise my eyes to where he could look at them, he had time to process my auditory instructions and his responses improved immediately!! The amazing workings of our Creator God in child development never cease to amaze me and in this case I was immediately grateful for the wisdom He gave dh and I about making eye contact with our kids.

 I wonder, why is it that we think someone isn't hearing us if they aren't looking us directly in the eye?  Why do we expect our young ones, who are still developing their communication skills, to use both auditory processing and visual processing at the same time when 'listening' to us? Because that's what our parents expected!  Try to think about how difficult it can be when you are politely keeping eye contact with someone, but can't seem to remember what they said or process the correct response.  Don't know about you, but this happens to me all the time!

I am thankful to be constantly learning about how to grow my children....even if it means rethinking ideas that I've had engrained in me since my childhood!  I am determined not to remain clueless but to continue to educate myself for the sake of these beautiful kiddos!  Our next step: appt with a dr. specializing in pediatric visual processing to check for proper tracking and peripheral neglect.  And as we learn more, I'll keep you updated!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Fresh Makeover!

I'm totally excited!  Can you just guess about what??  Come've gotta notice the lovely change in scenery around here?  (gringrin!)

You guessed it!  I finally made it onto Darcy's queue at Graphically Designing and made a change for the better here (now that I know I'll be stickin' around cyberspace for awhile....after all, I DO really like it here - ya'll are great)! 

But I was getting soooo tired of my old diggs, ya know?  The one with the BRIGHT orange and blue flat, boxed design?

I mean thanks and all to my hubbs for at least giving me a different title than the one that came from Blogger, but I knew I needed some real designing talent in order to redecorate around here....someone who's designs are always beautiful, functional, and balanced.

Enter Darcy!  You may already know her from her musings on life with 3 young boybarians but did you know that she is an artist as well?  Check out her humor, great cyberbloggy advice, and beautiful photography (not to mention the cuteness of her 3 favorite young subjects) at My 3 Boybarians as well as her other wonderful design work in cyber space over at:

Graphically Designing

And I'm sure that you'll understand why I was so glad to have her give Heritage Academy a lovely new look!

Here are her thoughts on her design:
"Your 4 children are the "cornerstones" of your homeschool. With you and hubby being the center. So I cornerstoned a notch - representing each child who shapes your homeschool. This was the inspiration for the design shape in your header and button. You at the heart - your children each shaping your academy."

So sweet!  Hey.... let me know what you think! 

Cuz I'm just totally excited!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Adam's Speech Progress

I don't think I've really posted much about Adam's speech therapy in this last year. So (I use the word 'so' a million times per post, I swear), I wanted to get some info down here for me to refer back to if I need to.

I just met with his preschool teacher, IU13 (PA governmt Child Development & Early Learning) service coordinator, and current speech therapist this past Wedns. to update his goals for this year's Individualized Education Program (IEP). So (there it is again - acckk!), here is a bit of his history:

*He didn't use his left leg properly when learning to crawl and sit

*He didn't walk, due to his strange leg use, until 18 months

*He didn't say more than 5 words (and those were not complete words with ending consonants) by the time he was 20 months old

* We kept hoping that new words will just pop up, but by 24 months we started looking for speech therapy

* His 1st evaluation with the IU13 showed more than enough delay to warrant speech therapy but we were not given OT/PT even though he showed delay in his motor skill development as well. At this point, I was still clueless about IU13 and the process for getting him services, as well as not quite ready to accept the fact that he had delays. I did not push further for OT.

*His 1st speech therapist came and "played" with him once each week at our house. He got to love her and look forward to her sessions, while she managed (miraculously in my opinion) to coax new sounds out of him. I was shocked to hear him call me "Bobby" for the first time, instead of using the hand sign. By the time she had worked with him for 9 months, he could say "I ub you, Bobby" as well as other 2-word sentences. I was amazed!

*He got a new therapist when he turned 3. She turned out to be even more amazing at her job! Through play, modeling, reading, and use of cues, she has been able to break him out of his quiet little shell and into the world of verbal communication in just 1 year!

I wish I could explain truly how much this has meant to our family, as we only had a few hand signs and much whining/fussing with which to 'talk' to him. Not speaking had locked him out of relating to other kids his age also. Since this was my primary concern at the time, I didn't focus much on his motor delays. Ms. Dria (his speech therapist), however, was skilled enough to give us many tools and clues to his speech AND motor behavior over the past year. She has explained to us how his low muscle tone (discovered by us when we were trying to figure out what was wrong with his leg) affects his speech and motor skills as well as just delaying his walking. She thinks he displays 'peripheral neglect' - a visual processing issue. Her observation is that his motor skills have not caught up to where the average 4year old should be, and she is helping us to try to get him OT. She has truly become an advocate for him and his development and we value her highly.

So where are we now? We continue with his speech therapy with some updated word usage & social goals from this year's IEP:

#1) "In order to communicate his ideas, experiences, and feelings for a variety of purposes, Adam will speak clearly enough to be understood by most listeners by using accurate sounds and all syllables expected in his words." [This goal has to do with actual physical usage of words & language rather than social communication]

Using -> auditory discrimination activities; repeated practice & modeling; reinforcing activities (playdough, crafts, motor movement games, puzzles); verbal prompts & touch cues; reading

Outcome -> measured by consistent use of target sounds in connected speech when given less than 2 cues.

#2) " In order to communicate his ideas, experiences, and feelings for a variety of purposes, Adam will use verbal and nonverbal language to interact and communicate for a variety of purposes" [This goal has to do with his new reluctance to use the words he's learning in social situations but rather resorting to fussing and not interacting with his peers]

Using ->reinforced activities [at preschool & home]; providing him with short models of things he can say to his 'peers';expanding his contribution [at preschool] to predictable routines; allowing him to respond with gestures or single words [at preschool & home] in order to reduce social demand stress

Outcome ->measured by his communication skills (questioning, responding, commenting, interacting) with his peers and family.

I really don't get how they try to quantify such things as speech and lack of communication, (although I understand that they must). But if I read it all slowly (and I talk through it with Ms. Dria), I can understand where we are headed with Adam. Although his progress in the last year has been huge, he still has trouble with quite a few sounds and cannot always be understood by other adults or peers. His teacher at preschool will help us to move him away from his 'demand' stress (refuses to communicate when directly questioned or 'put on the spot', even with grandparents). As far as getting his some OT, I've filled out my evaluation of his skills and his preschool teacher gave her opinion. Now we just have to wait to see if that, along with Ms. Dria's experience with his motor skills, is enough to earn him an OT evaluation.

Hopefully, another year of speech therapy (and OT?) will bring Adam along far enough for us to begin Kindergarten on track! Until then, we keep working one session at a time... And any advice from others on these therapies or your journeys with them would be welcomed as well!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

4 year old gets a Thankgiving feast for his birthday!

Hosting Thanksgiving this year was bound to happen. I managed to get out of it for the past 11 years of my marriage. But when my mother gave me a huge counter top roaster this past summer, I knew I could avoid the TURKEY task no longer.

And so we invited everyone in our family without realizing how few we could actually fit at our dining table. And amazingly, almost everyone from both sides of the family were able to join us! Accckk! So we had to buy a new folding table, extra dishes, 3 sets of silverware, new glasses, and some more fall decor. Times like that make me glad that I'm a list person, even if everyone else makes fun of me for it! ;-)

So, since most the fam would be here for the holiday, we also decided to just have Adam's 4th birthday party that day instead of the next weekend. Two birds, one very, very large stone (actually only ONE bird - lol)! In addition to the fall decor, there were balloons to be blown up & hung, gifts to buy & wrap, and cake to bake & frost. And with Jefferson's school schedule, there was no way I was going to be able to get more than one day of lessons in with Reagan.

But at least we could do a few fun Thanksgiving crafties around here. Adam made a turkey out of feathers & play dough, while Jefferson & Reagan colored in turkey place mats (the small size of my laminator disappointed them, however) and we all added leaves to our "Thankful" tree.
Jefferson memorized Psalm 100 and sang it to the tune of a hymn for our guests. And a new tradition this year (started & planned by my sil) was to light a votive candle for each person at the table while offering up something for which that person was thankful. By the time we'd all gone around the table and parents had spoken for each of their kids, we had a beautifully lit dining environment!

But I must share the "turkey" story since my dear husband cracks me up in the way he tackles his 'projects.' He insisted that he would take care of the turkey, as long as I had a roaster for it. After pouring over the instructions that came with the roaster (for what seemed like hours although I'm sure it was only minutes - lol!), he calls to order the turkey and spends an hour on the phone with the meat department trying to figure out what size turkey would fit in the roaster or if we needed to use two smaller ones. At one point he had the person measure both the 24lb and the 12lb turkeys!! I was just doing my best not to let my 'chuckle' out through my nose while he was on the phone! His next step in this engineering process (or I could call it a 'Fogoros' process, after my mil's way of researching) was to take the roaster pan with him to the grocery and get into hours of debate with the meat ladies as to the best way to feed 12 adults and 9 kids most efficiently. Had I been there to see that,I would NOT have been able to contain myself as they squished and squashed different size and combos of turkey into the pan in as many different configurations as possible!

You see, as my un-detail oriented mother before me, I would have seen that the roaster called for a max of 18 lbs and would have ordered a 22 pounder and just crossed my fingers! LOL! Thankfully, however, I was blessed with such a man as this. He, after ordering a 24 pounder, whipped out his calculator to figure out how many hours of slow cooking this fowl beast would require. SLOW cooking, people. He wanted tender meat. So - after 17 1/2 hours at 250 degrees, we cautiously cut open the lid (it had to be tied in due to it's size!) and prayed that his brainwork had paid off. And as you can see in the photos, this bird turned out WONDERFULLY! Cooking it upside down helped keep the white meat from drying out but made it quite a task to slice since it practically fell apart when moved.
Add the perfect bird to the huge amounts of sides that everyone helped with and we were solidly stuffed in no time! Well worth the hungry wait through the afternoon!

What a wonderful day to be with family! We decided to let Adam 'rip' into his birthday gifts before the meal since we knew we'd all still be conscious and that he could hardly wait another minute. He had been touching and re-arranging them since they started arriving at 10am - just oogling over them! But then he could hardly get through opening them since he was so interested in playing with each as he opened them. After our meal (and a bit of a break to make room for the sweet stuff!) we finally sang to him and let him have a go at the candle. I find it amusing how I grabbed his neck to shove him closer to the burning candle! But it wasn't until he saw the video that he realized that Mommy "helped" him with the candle - lol!

Our 4 year old! Ka-CHOW! from DNAC on Vimeo.

The time with family couldn't have been any better! The cousins enjoyed playing and got to have cake & ice cream also. The adults caught up with each other while trying to keep the turkey fom putting us to sleep and the aroma of hot spiced apple cider filled the house with warmth.


Our dinner verse before the meal:

"Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
whom he has redeemed from trouble

and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.

Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to a city to dwell in;

hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.

He led them by a straight way
till they reached a city to dwell in.

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!

For he satisfies the longing soul,
and the hungry soul he fills with good things."
Psalm 107:1-9

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Boy vs Pumpkin

To give him a little credit, Jefferson has never done a sack race before. Although, in this case he wasn't racing anyone at all, I'm sure that pumpkin just jumped into his way!

For more Wordless Wednesday see 5Minutes for Mom.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"Peh-tih-ser-nates?" A Weather Unit

This week we finished up a small science unit on weather with Reagan. I don't have a good plan for her this year for science since Jefferson, who read and helped her with Son*light lessons, is now away each day. I don't really know whether to go with the animal study I've used before or a new workbook based on the six days of creation.

So I just opened up one of our Son*light books, a wonderful DK Eye Wonder book of weather and started teaching her about lightning. What a great book! It has just enough info to hold interest but not overwhelm and has wonderful photos. Add to this "The Weather Book" by Michael Oard, a more advanced book but one with wonderful diagrams and a biblical perspective, and I felt like I had enough to keep her busy for a while.

She really, really enjoyed learning about the different kinds of weather and it was obvious that she learned a lot about the magnitude of God in seeing this powerful part of His creation. This is such an exciting part of home schooling! My favorite part was how she would re-tell all that she had learned that day to her daddy or grandparent or anyone who would listen! I'm finding that if the information is presented in the right way for her, she will just soak it all up, remember it, and ponder it for days. And because she is loves to narrate what's she's learned, I can always get a better idea of how much she comprehends. The word "precipitation" for instance is just NOT sticking and always comes out as "peh-tih-ser-nates?" or just "the water stuffs that come from the sky." LOL!

So after learning about the evaporation cycle, precipitation, wind, lightning, and storms, we made a "cloud" in a mason jar (ice on top and hot water inside), a weather vane to observe wind movement, and a precipitation poster showing vapor, rain, and frozen types. And I still feel like we could do so much more! But for now I'll just post the few photos that I have and plan on moving to a new exciting science unit...

(3 types of clouds on the left, rain & flood in the middle, snowflakes, frost, & hail on the right)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wordless Wednesday (a bit late)

This is the reason (or one of them) that I wear earplugs - little ones sure do know how to find a plaything that rocks the house! These plastic stools rattle my bones and nerves, but I enjoy how much they love playing with them!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Lincoln turns TWO!!

Our little , lumpy fourth baby has finally turned TWO! I truly feel like it was yesterday that I popped this one out! We mamas all know that times flies with our precious babies, but I'm getting the feeling that the more babies one has, the faster time seems to fly?

Lincoln was out first home birth baby and our second huge 11 pounder. He loves, loves, loves, playing with all of his older siblings....most of the time - lol! The other times, he has learned to use those vocal chords to make himself known. And this one throws - anything in his hands at the time of his frustration. And if nothing's in his hands, he'll find something to throw. Maybe he's becoming a bit dramatic like his sister or just plain strong willed. He's definitely becoming TWO! We love to watch him copy his siblings and learn to dance or sing or make silly sound effects with them. He loves to park his cars all in a row and MUST fix them if they become slightly misaligned (oy!). He still sucks his middle two fingers (like I used to) and runs away with giggle every time we call him to come. He calls me "Mahmoo" right now (not quite speaking yet) and loves to sit on my lap with a book (probably one that he's already chewed on in past months). One of his favorite things to do is to pull out ALL the dvds or books while I teach Reagan her lessons. I can laugh about that now only because he now starting to put them back too! :-)

Here are his two-year photos. He decided that he would NOT smile, no matter how the photographer sang and danced for him. Ya gotta laugh at that first grimace on his face! But he gradually warmed up a bit and (with the help of another singing, dancing photographer and a tennis ball) he finally did smile ... even if just for a shot or two.

Happy Birthday Lincoln! I hope your third year doesn't fly by quite so quickly...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

My first video post!

So weird to do a video post - felt really silly hiding in the bathroom and trying to get that stupid red book out of the frame while I talked and talked about ME! I missed a ton of topics but at least it's an intro for those who don't know me or see me.

Let me know what you think of the crazy lady from PA! Maybe you all would be brave enough to post some videos of yourselves too? :-)

blog introduction from mom24heritage on Vimeo.

Need a bloggy update...

Goodness, I need to update my blog! My sidebars are all leftover from last year, our read-alouds are all different and the my family pics are all outdated. Plus, I'm ready for a Heritage Academy icon to use for book labels, t-shirts, my header, and business cards.

I've really got to start focusing on getting a post done each week also. I hope that I'll be able to do this better with only one hs student. It's just that with my perfectionist personality, I feel like I have to get everything else done first! Not to mention my frustration with Blogger and adding photos. Grrrr...

But I am determined to have something...anything...for the kids and myself to look through later in life. This blog has become the first journal of my life where I feel comfortable writing about our lives! Every other time I've tried to journal I've gone back to read after a couple months and not liked what I'd written and would've been embarrassed if someone else had read it. Strange that this forum - totally public and exposed - would be where I find my journaling groove.

I do think that it has something to do with the other bloggy peeps that I now feel like I can call friends. Not feeling alone in my journey as a wife, mom, and teacher actually seems to help me put thought to 'paper.' So, while poor little Adam and Lincoln may have cruddy baby books (and NO scrapbooks), at least part of their young lives are documented here with Jefferson and Reagan's early academic lives. And my personality is actually being public - go figure!

So for now, I start by working no my sidebars this week. Tiny steps people...tiny steps..

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Blogging Woes and Entering the realm of 'away' school....

When I last posted I never expected to be away from the blogosphere for so long! It's not that I have a list of readers or have anything valuable to share with the sphere. These I do not. My disappointment in my absence comes from the fact that my primary use of this forum is to leave a path of journaling by which my children can get to know me better later in their lives and use it to reflect back upon their early lives, where their memories do not have access. So I plan to make it my priority this week to get this post finished, since it entails the details of one of our biggest family life changes to date - moving Jefferson to from home school to 'away' school.
Ahhhh...where to start, where to start....

Let's begin in the first week of August, after 3 weeks of home school break (from 2nd gr and K)for the kids and teacher planning for me. We dove into Core 3 of Sonlight curriculum and I was just loving it. Teaching from a history core is just such a great way to infuse the student with multiple levels of knowledge of the era being covered! The early explorer's are so interesting. I loved reading "Walk the World's Rim" (by Betty Baker) while he read "Pedro's Journal" (by Pam Conrad), a story about Christopher Columbus's first journey to the America's, by himself. Although the book started out roughly, "Walk the World's Rim" gave us many character lessons from which to learn and I was soon saying to him, "Maybe those two are just walking a different trail?" to indicate to him that the characters were not understanding each other's view on life. I pointed out examples of this in relationships around us. Little did I realize that I would soon be pointing it out to him about our teacher/student relationship!

While trying to push (and I WAS pushing, not encouraging) Jefferson to do as much of his work as he could WITHOUT coming to me every 3 seconds with unneeded questions, I was also trying to step up Reagan's lessons to include phonics (20 mins), reading (20 mins plus read aloud time), math (30mins), science (15 mins done daily with Jefferson reading it for her), and history (15 mins reading or small project), as well as one art lesson and art project per week. This was a significant work load increase from her Kindergarten lessons (phonics & math daily) and barely could fit into the workload that I was trying to accomplish with Jefferson. I couldn't seem to teach both of them at the same time as Jefferson refused to focus if another kid was in the room and as every hs mom of multiple students knows, that's practically impossible!

I soon found myself pulling my hair out in frustration as Jefferson cried when he couldn't complete something efficiently and Reagan cried because I was pushing her too hard to complete her lessons quickly. He could never attempt his work on his own and then come to be with the questions he gathered. Rather he would interrupt Reagan's lessons multiple times until I yelled at him and was then too frustrated to be patient with her (something she really, really needs in order to learn). I couldn't read her even one paragraph with focus and I could tell she wasn't processing very well the information I was reading.

I was exhausted and tried to chalk up my troubles to our normal beginning of school stress. After all, every other year was tough in the beginning. I hoped that it would work itself out as we got comfortable with our new routine and lesson load. But instead, Jefferson snapped at me all day long until I snapped back. He constantly asked me what he could do and never occupied himself (except when reading a book - believe me, I worked hard to have tons of reading available for him) while the younger two were transitioning to a lovely new stage of screaming at each other and not sharing and thus adding noise and chaos to the day as well. The assignments were getting checked off of both of their lists while I went to bed tired and feeling guilty for my lack of patience and my tone of voice. And other than the tears and perfectionism she displayed in lessons, Reagan quietly occupied herself and didn't notice that she was getting the short end of the academic stick. It's not like she was begging me to sit and read to her (read-alouds were one of the first things to get skipped each day with our time constraints). But I knew that with her learning differences, she needed more, not less time, than Jefferson received when he was in first grade!

So after a particularly bad Friday, Jefferson and I were both crying at lunch as we tried to explain to the principal Daddy just how rough it had gotten. Dh called one of the two Christian classical schools in the area to set up an appointment and get some info. Keep in mind that this was the Friday before they began their classes! We didn't know how to meet our family's needs (put Reagan in school or Jefferson or change our curriculum or get counseling or what), but knew that we needed to change something major.

It was clear and evident. And really, really, really hard for me to accept.

After the Friday meeting with Day.spring Chris.tian Academy, we prayed and prayed all weekend about what we would do for the spiritual health of our family. We talked with our closest friends and asked our FB friends to pray for us. And I cried and cried and cried. Although I hadn't meant it to happen, home schooling has become more of my identity than I realized and now I felt like I was failing or giving up my son, in some way. Even with all the struggle in our one month of home schooling, I hadn't expected the Lord to lay THIS on our lap!

But it felt like the right thing to do. Jefferson thrives in structure, excels in academics, and never talks back to adults other than his parents/grandparents. And his walk with the Lord was not being strengthened or nurtured by the frazzled, short, and impatient mother who was teaching him school. We felt that we should give academics over to this classical christian school so that we could work on tying strings of love and fellowship with him instead, as well as providing the needed time and attention for Reagan to do well in first grade.

So we enrolled him on DCA's second day of school. And I cried some more.

It was busy, busy, busy getting used to the driving routine to drop and pick up as well as extra things such as getting lunches ready and uniforms bought and washed. I had to run to the store for school supplies at the same time as the rest of the country only to find most of them gone. Reagan missed about 7 days of school amidst all the meetings with teacher's and evaluator's. And this after being a 'laid back' home school schedule for 3 years - you know, breakfast done by 9:00 and lessons started by 9:30, lunch whenever it fits and naps after that. I prayed that we would get used to the restrictive schedule and still be able to provide for the specific needs of each child. I prayed that Jefferson would fit in well and pick up the little things about school that he had missed from being educated with different curriculum.

After one week, we got an email from his 2nd grade teacher telling us that he was doing almost"too well" for 2nd grade. So I questioned our decision to have him take 2nd grade again and I prayed for direction. After another call from the school telling us that he was 'flying through his evaluation tests' and a meeting with the 3rd grade teacher (a woman highly recommended by other parents), we moved him into 3rd grade. Another adjustment for him and more fretting for me! Such little faith at a time when God's leading was so clear to us!'d think I'd learn - lol! We prayed much for him and I studied his 'new' phonics and 'new' grammar (Shurley Grammar, which I had bought but chosen not to use - go figure!) so that I could help him "catch up" after his first week in 3rd grade.

But then I got an email from his teacher telling me that he aced both his grammar and his phonics tests! In every area he was doing well!

And I praised God instead of crying anymore. He is soooo very good and lead us so clearly and has provided for Jefferson and our family so perfectly. Jefferson is so happy at school and clearly does well academically (and socially - he's never had a problem there). Reagan is getting wonderful time with all of her lessons and is actually enjoying them and learning from them. I LOVE having more time with her - she is blossoming like a sweet rose!! And I even have time to read to the younger boys - one of my favorite snuggly times. Even with the extra driving....

So all that to try to put in words the process our family has been through these past two months that has rocked our world and even my faith. I hope that when the Lord brings us a new change in direction in the future, I can say that I have learned something from this and that my faith has grown. I hope that the kids (in the future) will know how much we want for their walk with the Lord and they will understand that we are willing to give up OUR plans for them so that the Lord's will prevails and blesses them instead.

And please, if you think about it, pray for us as we continue to adjust, that our family would grow stronger in faith and in our walk with God.....

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Working up that nervous 'pre' school frenzy!

Hey there! Here I am! I know you forgot but it's me - that strange country bumpkin with the presidentially named kids. Crazy how the calendar moves before I realize that although I've been blogging in my own head, I've not actually typed any of it up for you to see since last month! LOL! I guess I was hoping that you all had telepathy....

Just have so much on my mind these days! There certainly isn't time for blogging with the 'end' of last school year's work (well, kinda since we 'schooled' all year this year) and the lovely weather and summer activities. I've been to see family in Phoenix, family in Maryland (and I got to meet Mary's beautiful new boy - nanny, nanny to you all - he was adorable!), North Carolina, and, just yesterday, Washington D.C. - trips which have kept me up to my eyeballs in planning and laundry and catch up (on the return). We've had swimming lessons and karate and play dates galore. I've been "painting my thumb green" with a new (albeit TINY) garden, perennials, and flower baskets. And I've been making some headway on the seasonal clothing change (takes me f.o.r.e.v.e.r in this house!) and closet cleanup.
(Jefferson eatin' more sweet peas than he's picking for me!)

(Jefferson earned his yellow belt in Wado Ryu Karate)

But what really keeps me away, is the planning I need to get done for this coming (in 2 1/2 weeks?? Yikes!) school year where Reagan will need more time consuming teaching, Jefferson is headed into a new curriculum (we've chosen Sonlight - yay!) and Adam heads to pre school (Lincoln, at 2, will be doing his best to cause all sorts of mess and distraction - his specialty right now!).

I ordered Core 3 (Intro. to Amer. History), Science 2 (so he and Reagan could share), and Language Arts 3 from Sonlight this year. "Box day" was last week and I've only got the Instructor's Guide put together, with no progress on labeling and shelving the books, or entering the assignments into my Homeschool Tracker Plus (which I love too much to give up even though it requires much input time). The kids LOVED the books and spent a few days pouring over them before I had to tape the box back up (to keep Jefferson from reading too many) Sheesh, what a problem to have - lol!
So in order to tackle the Sonlight/HST+ combination & entry, I joined both forums and have been ignoring this dear blog. Dh has offered to take 'The Four' out of the house on Sat so I can get some good data entry/ planning time in. I am hoping that I can keep my head on straight because I am finding that I have trouble focusing these days. Deadlines always help though!

The other issue I'm trying to tackle at the same time is the planning of Reagan's 1st grade year. I am nervous about what we will be able to accomplish since she is still only in basic readers and is having trouble with eye tracking. I still need to plan out her phonics lessons to incorporate the multi-sensory techniques that are oh, so important and effective with her, as well as figure out how to incorporate some of SOTW1 with the Mystery of History I plan to use instead (more another time on why). It is critical that I get her plan completely mapped out since I have discovered this year that her lessons easily get shoved to the back burner in lieu of Jefferson's work.

At this point, I am thankful that I have a roll top desk since it looks like my head feels - completely disheveled! But...I am hoping (and praying of course!) that prioritizing and using lists will help me plod through little by little and get it all done. I've done it before and hundreds of ladies before me have done it too, right?

Ohhhh, the fun "pre" school, planning I mean. I am glad for the excitement about the new year and new goals that comes with it though! Hopefully, it won't keep me away from here for too long....

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Photo Effects

(Original photo above)
I can't believe how angelic my little man still looks at 19 months old (especially considering the horrific sounds that can come from his mouth when he's told "No!" - lol!). Those eyes just melt my heart!

A special thanks to Darcy (my photography and Photoshop hero) at Life with My 3 Boybarians for recommending (free software) for photo editing. I haven't the talent to invest in Photoshop but didn't have enough options with Picassa and Paint. It was fun giving him blue eyes and trying all kinds of other strange effects on this photo (while I should have been doing *insert.any.daily.*)!

For more Wordless Wednesday, see 5 minutes for Mom.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Baby Chicks - Fun project!

I love the little things that God brings to our home school experience to make it more interesting and exciting for the kids (and me too)! At the end of our hs co-op, we got an email from a hs acquaintance asking if anyone wanted to try incubating some chicken eggs. Sounds interesting but I didn't think I had time to figure out how to make an incubator.

Thankfully someone at co-op offered to lend us one! Awesome! I mean - how hard could it be to turn some eggs a couple times every day, right?

So the kids helped me to label the eggs so that we could remember to turn them and then they learned that we needed to keep the incubator between 98 and 103 degrees while keeping water in it to maintain humidity. Someone also told us to keep the eggs slanted with the big end slightly upward - haven't figured out if that was needed but we did it.

The egg part was easy (although it has taken us a huge part of my kitchen counter space for 3 weeks) but I worried about them getting turned when Jefferson and I went to Phoenix for a week. But dh turned out to be a good egg turner - even with 3 kids, 2 hermit crabs, a garden/flowers, and a fish to take care of also!

Jefferson and I got back from Phoenix just in time for them to start hatching - 21 days exactly! They waited until evening to do it so I had to video much of it for the kids (and you!) to see. It took each chick about an hour to get itself our and start flopping around. I stayed up late to wait for them to dry before I moved them over to our brooder. We somehow managed to throw it together last minute (typical of me!) with one of our heated lamps, a box and aluminum foil.

Hatching Chickens from DNAC on Vimeo.

We hadn't been looking at the calender closely enough and weren't ready for them to hatch. So we had to wait until the next day to run to a friend's farm to get feed for them. It has been harder to keep the temp in the brooder steady for them since it is an open box but using aluminum foil on top helps.

The baby chicks are very cute and fluffy! They peep and peck and hop and then spontaneously sleep. The kids love to watch them in their box and keep asking me to keep them. It stresses them to be handled but it is hard to resist doing so. Unfortunately, we let some little friends hold them and one got dropped! I was hoping with would be okay but it seems not to be using it's right leg. :-( Future reference for anyone else - chicks ARE breakable!

Here are some cute pics! Glad to have been able to do this project but now that they are smelling up my kitchen, I'm ready to get them back to the farmer - lol! Don't think my neighborhood association would care for any livestock in our backyard (not that I wouldn't mind the healthy, soy-free eggs!)......

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

This is what happens when a little girl is stuck with 3 brothers:

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

...the mouths of babes!

I was torturing Reagan by brushing her knotty hair this morning. I was amazed at how awful it was and she was brought to tears by the pain.

Reagan (6): If my hair is dead, then why does it hurt so much Mommy?!

(Nice to know that she's listened in science - human body discussions last year. Poor girl - I had to tell her that the skin part, where the hair's attached it still quite alive and full of nerves!)

And this week it was my dh that had me laughing!

Yesterday, I was lamenting and complaining to dh about how much time it takes just to do daily tasks for the kids, such as feeding and dressing and diapers. I was just looking for some empathy from dh more than complaining really because I was tired and facing dinner unprepared again. I said, "It never ending with these kids."

DH: Well, there're just so many of them!

(It just sounded so funny coming out of his mouth so bluntly - as if we have 10 children running amuck or something!)
For more Tiny Talk Tuesday (from real tiny talkers, not hubby) visit Mary at Not Before 7!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

How does that garden grow?

I've been a bit bummed about how we've only covered half of our planned science lessons this year for Jefferson (and Reagan too - although not officially in her K program). It just seems to me that when the weather gets warm, one MUST be outside showing and teaching them the wonders of God's living creation while it blooms instead, right?

So I'm thankful that I've had the time to start our small garden this year as well as add some houseplants to our lives. And I'm super excited about flowers too! It gives me such great joy to watch the kids learn to observe and appreciate the vast varieties as well as the needs of all these plants.

Over the past few weeks (we are in a 3 week break right now - these were our last weeks of the past term) we've watched the garden boxes grow by leaps and bounds under the influence of bountiful rain. Here is ours before (4 weeks after planting):

And here is our most recent (2 weeks ago):

We have discovered that the lettuce varieties we planted, Romaine and Summertime Lettuce, are fast growing, hardy, and NOT bitter. ALL four of my kids will eat an entire bowl full of salad with these leaves! They love to pull and wash the spring onions so we can have them chopped up on top (I've been told to thin out my onions and use some early so that the others will have room to grow nice and large).

One of Jefferson's strawberry plants has 4 berries on it, after showing him some pretty white flowers (I forgot to have him sketch them) and he is hopeful his other one will bloom soon. These were his request and his responsibility and so, will be his harvest as well (albeit, a very small harvest!). And our sweet peas have flowers all over so we are anxious for some produce soon.

The plants we choose to start from seeds, heirloom tomato and sage, are teaching us a lot as well! I have no good indoor lights so we've had them under our kitchen counter lights for the past couple months. They seem to be taking a long, long time to grow. *sigh* I want tomato plants already! Jefferson and I replanted them into larger pots to put outside but only used the plain inert topsoil I had. At Mrs. Weaver's farm today, she told us that we needed to mix that topsoil with some of our manure (well duh? Where did I think this poor little stalk would get it's food? I should've figured that much out myself, but am thankful once again for her help!) and use some Epsom salt at the roots, as well as using fish fertilizer about weekly. She also told us not to put more than one in the pot (I guess I have no good eye for how big this thing is really gonna get!). Jefferson said, "Well maybe it won't look so sad and droopy if we do what she said, Mommy? Her garden looks good...." Thanks, J - I know that you are 7 and you know all about gardens too already.... :-)

But while the poor "droopy" things were still inside, I had Jefferson and Reagan draw both the tomato and the sage seedlings (and their seeds). Reagan (1st drawing) took note of the difference in the shape of the leaves as well as the shape of the main branches while Jefferson was more concerned with learning how to draw the little planter pots in 3-D. Aren't they nice drawings for a 2nd grader and Kindergartner? I was pleased with how much they enjoy this type of work though and need to make sure to incorporate it more often in our weekly assignments (especially since J complains about how hard it is to make them look real!).

Our final sketch (just last week) was of our new Wandering Jew (didn't get them scanned :-(). We were given some clippings from a friend and it was fun to see how fast they grew! Jefferson and Reagan both like how unique this purple, hairy plant is but they each drew different aspects of it - Reagan the purple leaves and Jefferson, the angular branches. Reagan loves how it looks like "God put glitter in the leaves" when we look at them closely in the light and Jefferson just likes the hairs all over it.

All in all, I'd say that I'm learning as much as the kids are and we are totally enjoying this spring! I'm so glad that Lincoln is old enough for me to have time to expose them all to more of God's beautiful springtime this year (even if it doesn't fit the plan I had for science this year!).