Sunday, March 29, 2009

Painting my thumb green

So anyone who knows me know that I have a LOT of learning to do to be considered a 'green thumb' - lol! But really I'm just glad to be learning anything at all!

Wednesday I had the opportunity to attend a meeting at an Amish farm about gardening. The scheduled speaker did not show up to answer my millions of questions (didn't he know that I was going to be there??). So the group moved into more of a question/answer discussion mode. This worked out so well for me! I soaked in the info and varied processes of these experienced women and tried to write it all down so that I wouldn't forget it all the instant I stepped foot back into the chaos that I call 'home with four kids.'

One of things I figured out is that the white 'lime' type powder my farmer friend, Mrs. W., had me use was Aregonite and is used to add calcium to the soil and lower the acidity of the soil. I sewed this in with the seeds and not into the entire beds.

I will admit that one of the things which overwhelms me is the topic of soil composition or acidity. So far, I have no idea how to tell whether my soil is balanced with the minerals and nutrients that our veggies need or not. But from listening to these women, I am feeling better about looking at this as a learning process. Something is bound to grow, huh? I just hope that I can start to get a better feel for what it is that I need to add to the soil over time to improve it for improved food results (or lower bug results).

While all the women use some type of fertilizer (I will be using fish fertilizer - peeeeeuuuwww), some use compost and some do not. Some use the dead and dying leftovers from the garden and till them back into the bed to decompose while others use composted grass or leaves. All of them recommended that manure be let sit for at least a year before use (don't think I did this!) so that it will compost also. Epsom salts and kelp were also recommended to nourish the soil but I will stick to the guidance of Mrs. W for this season or until I know better what I need.

We discussed organic bug repellers (I've made a note to look up something called Bullseye) and beneficial attractors - a.k.a. "good smelly plants." I heard the word "Tansy" enough to know that I will be planting a ton of it to attract lady bugs (aphid eaters) and that I should plant a diverse selection of herbs for other good bugs. Marigolds will keep slugs away (although I don't know why they'd invite themselves to my garden in the first place?) and are edible as well.

I will be attempting to grow two heirloom (50 years or older) varieties this year - tomatoes and green beans. I know that they have better nutritional value and draw all their nutrients from the soil (rather that relying on plant food) but heard many times in the discussion that the soil must be very good for them to produce well. They will not look nice and pretty (like grocery store produce) but should taste wonderful, even if I don't get many this year. This weekend is when I'll get a moment to start the tomato seeds (inside) and sunflower seeds (another request from Jefferson).

I would like to say the Jefferson sat on the edge of his seat with excitement upon learning so much from this discussion. But at only 7 years old, and with the beautiful spring weather calling him, he only made it to lunchtime before running out to muck around with the baby pigs and the chickens and the Amish children, whom he couldn't understand. All in all, he would say he had a great time, but at the end of the day couldn't tell me why it's important that we feed our soil good things. *SIGH* Hopefully, he'll pick up the bug for gardening with me and will soon be painting his thumb as well? He's sure to learn something from his gardening unit eventually!
In the meantime, he and Reagan continued their science lesson this week by working on copywork for their gardening notebooks and making these cute garden dioramas. They always love the hands-on projects! Jefferson had wanted to use the veggies on stick as puppets but was pleased with his finished box instead. We still need to hang our butterflies from the top and glue soil on the bottom (it's been too wet to gather dirt). They did a good job reminding and helping me with watering the garden and helping me weed around the house as well.

We are on our way....getting greener every day! I've never been so anxious for the warmer weather to arrive!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Excited about Gardening!

I love to work out in the dirt and sunshine. Pulling weeds makes me feel like I'm accomplishing something. I love plants and nature.

But I don't have a green thumb nor do I know much about gardening or planting flowers. So when dh built me a little (and I do mean 'little') box garden in which I can grow vegetables for us this year, I was both excited and nervous.

Every year I feel like I have time to get my planting/seeds figured out and then - BOOM! - it's May and I've got nothing planted once again. So this year I prayed specifically that God would give me the guidance and time that I needed to fill our new vegetable boxes since March is halfway over and I hadn't even planned anything.

And I'm excited to say that He very specifically answered me! Last week my good friend, Joyful Mama, gave me a call and told me to get in touch with our farming friend who would be willing to help us both with our gardens this year. And when I called her, she was gracious enough to talk me through planning and timing for my boxes. But the most wonderful part is that she went with me to the nursery to get the seeds and supplies I would need AS WELL AS coming over to my house to plant it ALL with me (in the cold drizzly rain while her husband watched her 6 kids)!! I don't know if she realized what kind of gift this was to me. I never learned anything about gardening growing up and tend to be slow at learning from books. So to have her SHOW me was worth far much more than anything else she could have done!

What a blessing and answer to prayer! I couldn't believe how much I learned and got done in just one day!
(Don't know the name of this, just that it is the same as lime for the soil)

The other exciting part about our garden is turning it into a fun unit for the kids. Jefferson and Reagan went to the store with us and helps with the soil prep. Jefferson has requested strawberries and got to plant his own planter box with them. He helped me sow the peas, lettuce, carrots, and spinach while Rae helped with the onions and carrots and watering.

(Jefferson with his two strawberry plants)

(Jefferson's garden diagram with labels)

It was exciting for them to be doing something different than their lessons and reminded me that I need to throw interesting unit studies into our curriculum more often than I do. Jefferson soaked up all the info on the back of the seed packets and is now continually reminding me of when each item should be appearing while Reagan is already thinking about the food our efforts will produce (hopefully - lol!). This was all accomplished on Thurs instead of heading to our homeschool co-op (after all, she knew the right timing for the season and weather and I would give up anything in our schedule for her help!).

(Reagan's coloring sheet)

On Friday, instead of our history, Spanish, or astronomy lessons, we spent the afternoon starting a gardening notebook for each of us (myself included so that I can keep track of what works for us, what materials I need to have on hand, which veggies I like, etc., etc.). They both drew out a plan of the boxes with the veggies we planted labeled and worked on a cover sheet for their books. Through this I have discovered that Reagan is ready for short copywork and was excited to put her own title on. Jefferson kept reminding me of how much fun they were having (thus also reminding me again that we need a break from our regular studies).

(2 boxes of sweet peas, 1 box of lettuce, onion, and carrots)

(Edging my tiger lily bed so the grass doesn't grow into it)

And looking at the forecast for the week, I'm glad we skipped our planned break (2 weeks ago) so we can use this week for some great outdoors time and garden note booking! We are all just so glad for the arrival of spring!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Time keeps on slipping, slippin, slippin.... into the future!

Got a post or two or three swirling around in my head. Need to get some things down in this journal about school and schedule and science.

But there's just.not.enough.time!!

If only I could figure out how to produce extra hours in a day. Or if I could just get rid of all my kids! But I guess that would negate the point, huh? :-)

So in this tiny snippet, whilst half the kiddos are sleeping and the other half are running around outside, when I should be preparing dinner or at least getting myself ready for my women's group, I'll just drop some photos on here for ya'll to view.

Hey - at least it's something!

(Science - observing and writing about a robin's nest from the yard)
(Reagan - always pretty in blue!)

(Lincoln - caught just chillin' with the remote and a battery in his mouth)

(Jefferson and I)

(Lincoln doesn't like the red pre-flash on my new camera)

(Playing with my new camera)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Reagan Turns 6!

Although her party isn't until this coming weekend and I wasn't able to be home for her special day, she still had fun. I can't believe that she is SIX years old already!! My little girl.....

Monday, March 9, 2009

Connecting the Dots....

I love to post about the times when our kids make connections on their own (even as I type, Jefferson is pointing to my use of "their"). It's just a nice reminder that they actually ARE learning something, right? Not to mention the awesome grin on their face when they finally connects the dots about something we have been learning.

Grammar has been something which Jefferson has been struggling to wrap his mind around these past 2 years. And I have been wondering why I am even teaching a 'structured' grammar subject at all (rather than a more CM style, exposure approach). He drags his feet at the FLL book and it seems to take him forever to memorize definitions. He gets frustrated when he can't answer my questions about sentence parts (nouns, pronouns, verbs, etc.) that I feel like he's learned over and over (and I won't lie - I get frustrated too!).

But, just like happened when learning to read, he seems to finally be putting these foundational pieces together. It's kind of like turning on a light - only I don't know what it was that drew all the info together! He is finally able to label a sentence and give me good example of different parts. He can finally tell me what each part means and I find him checking his own punctuation and spelling.

Today he was excited to discover a homonym in his science work and also that he could spell both the words AND that one of them was a pronoun. I have taught him this many times but I could tell that this was when he made the concrete connection. You know - the time where you know you won't have to teach it again? I wish I could have caught his face with the camera! It's so funny how such a little thing can be so encouraging to both of us - and I am thankful for that!!
THERE - as in "that place over there, Mommy!"
THEIR - a pronoun that "I can use instead of the names, Mommy!"

Friday, March 6, 2009

Observable Progress: Figuring out our Dear Daughter - Part 4

It's been about a year since dh and I determined to dig in our heels, pray more specifically and try to figure out the source of the behavioral issues we had with our little Reagan. You can see how our journey began in Part 1, 2, and 3.

So... I am glad to be able to post such good news about our journey with the Lord to better understanding and helping her over this year!! This is definitely a post of praise and I want to share it not just as a dairy of this part of Reagan's life, but as an encouragement to other families who are dealing with children who are "non-compliant" and don't seem fit the "mold" in behavior or development. Also, I want to be able to look back and always remember what our Father has done in us, the parents, along this process as well!

As many know, Reagan is a beautiful little girl with a grand imagination, great memory, strong will, and lightning quick temper. We love her dearly but were unable to train her to control her compulsions and thus her anger displayed in such out of control behavior that we basically housebound her (while I lived half each day in tears in the bathroom!). Part 1 explains what we faced each day in more detail....

Our first step (last Jan. when she was almost 5) was to begin PRAYING for specific guidance as to what we should do (sounds obvious but sometimes we need God to force us to lean upon Him more I think). We went to a family counselor to get direction on what we needed to change in our parenting and were told to HAVE HER EVALUATED by a psychologist, which we did in Feb.

Her evaluation results gave us some great insight into her inner working and offered us books, methods, and resources to use to improve specific learning skills as well as behavior. We were so thankful for the fact that she had only a slight auditory processing problem but were well aware of the work that lay ahead of us. At the same time that we were digesting all the new info from her evaluation (and praying, praying, praying) we looked at her DIET. Changing her diet by removing all food sensitivities and then rotating what was left, helped her gut to heal and her skin to stop itching. This was the first time we noticed improvement in her behavior, with better sleeping and fewer tantrums.

But this was only the beginning of our "Operation Bolt of Lightning" (so named after the nickname she had earned for her unpredictable and turbulent behavior in her short 5 years with us)! :-) There were ups and downs, moments of real progress as well as bouts of backsliding. And many were the things that God was teaching us about her along the way! As parents we worked hard on keeping calm and not allowing her to push our buttons (I wish that we could say that none of her behavior was related to us but that would be so irresponsible of us). We worked to be more CONSISTENT in our expectations, rewards, and punishments so that she could feel safe and like she was on rock solid ground with us - always knowing what to expect. We learned to work toward her strengths - praise, praise, praise and hugs, hugs, hugs - were like magic medicine in this house in avoiding volatile explosions. Colors, tactile learning techniques, music all spoke volumes to her. Keeping our instructions s.u.p.e.r short and to the point while teaching her to use words to explain her emotions helped tremendously.

In September we sent her to a SOCIAL SKILLS CLASS through IU13 for the fall. It was only once per week but I will admit that I thought it would produce no change. But the Lord had other ideas and was already clearly working in her heart (and all of our lives) to heal and grow her (for His glory!). This class gave her words for communicating better, verbal cues to help her calm down, and the knowledge that she had the choice to change her behavior regardless of others' behavior.

But most importantly of all was when I was blessed enough to have been given the privilege of leading her to RECEIVE JESUS as her Savior one evening in July! I remember praying each day after this that we would see fruit in her life and I am convinced that slowly but surely the Holy Spirit has been growing and improving her!

We see so much EVIDENCE of this that I feel like I could write a book about it! I no longer dread each day - the time that she wakes up - knowing that even if she is a bit grumpy, she won't give me a screaming, raging fit. I no longer find myself crying in the bathroom or emotionally drained from 5 or 6 huge blowouts each day. I no longer dread teaching her kindergarten. Her fits are much smaller in magnitude (crying and bounding her arms and legs a bit while rubbing her eyes hard) and fewer in number (2 or 3 times per week instead of twice that per day!). Instead she is learning to let me know that she's sad or needs a hug or just doesn't like what I've told her to do. She has become a great helper and actually loves to please me and dh (pleasing us was never a motivator for her before!). We are learning to read her body language better so that we can help her to communicate. She is happy and smiling most of the time and shows much greater kindness to her brothers and I can tell that she feels less turbulence overall.

So now, she seems like a normal 6 year old (with a rational amount of training required), she enjoys school (with me always on the lookout for cues and tactics to better speak to her), and talks about how much she loves to please Jesus (this warms my heart more than anything else)!! We know that there is more work to be done (I mean really - when are we ever "done", right?)and we are glad (so hugely grateful!!) for the God-given wisdom to be able to understand her better, train her better, and guide her towards serving Christ in all she does!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

So - what have we been up to for 2 months?

So I'm sure it's obvious to my millions of adoring fans that Heritage Academy hasn't had a blog post in over two long months. Though I thought it would escape notice, a few have been wondering "What in the world has become of mom24 and her brood of homeschooled kiddos?"

I wish I could explain simply my absence from the bloggosphere that I've come to enjoy and need so much. But really, I think that real life and family priorities just got in the way of posting. First, my dh was gracious (and slightly evil) enough to introduce me to facebook. I now call FB my arch nemesis for how easy it is to pop into and waste time in. On top of that, I have joined a weight loss accountability group which meets on Thurs nights as well as a women's bible study on Friday nights. Dh is at an inductive study group on Tues, Jefferson has karate on Mondays & Wednesdays. This schedule adds up to not much evening time for homeschooling and personal interaction with the hubbs. And we all know about the illnesses and regular drudgery of February. But the real kicker for this poor little blog is my attempt to get to bed by 9:30 so I can make it to the gym at 0'dark hundred at least 3 times per week. This leaves my brain drained and body pooped by 8:30!

With all this "life" happening, my brain cannot seem to focus enough to type up a post. But we are accomplishing a lot and trudging through the wintry blahs, so I really do want to return to my bloggy journaling. I don't care about keeping readers, but I just want a record of our homeschooling journey. I DO care about the blogs that I read regularly (which, of course, I haven't in 2 months) because I find all you women to be so encouraging, funny, and helpful in this journey. I will be making sure to check that g.reader out more regularly so I'm not missing out on the rest of my bloggy buddies!

With that said, I'll leave with a few photos of our life over our absence:

...the mouths of babes!

Thought I might ease myself back into posting with a simple post and hopefully this will lead to more posts. I love the way that the kids describe things around here - it's always unique and often quite amusing!

Adam (3): Ah want see Jesus??
Reagan (5.5): No Adam. You can't see Jesus. Only when you get to be 4 or 5 and then you can pray for Jesus to be in your heart and then He can help you to be like Him and you can see Him in heaven. But you can't get to heaven on a bicycle!

(Well - that does it for me! I guess I'll have to try the praying thing instead of my bike....)
Me: Can you use descriptive words to tell Mommy what her voice sounds like? Something different than 'loud' or 'soft'?
Jefferson (7): THUNDER!

(Yikes - now I know what my yelling sounds like to little ears!)
Me: You have a GREAT memory, Reagan!
Reagan (5.5): Yeah! The people in my head have a book and when I learn something they put it in the book!
Me: How do they get it out?
Reagan: They grab it and take it and put it into my mouth and put it into words!

(She said all this with such seriousness, I could hardly keep from LOL!)