For a Quick Reference

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My magic Apron

I have decided that I love aprons. They make me feel like I'm actually in control of my home. (Which is ironic, since home schooling is pretty messy in my book.) Whenever I think of the best mothers, they always have aprons on. It's homey and comforting, and it actually energizes me in a strange way to deep clean and cook great dinners. In a strange, inexplicable way it makes me feel productive when I wear it, no matter what I am doing. 

I bought an apron this summer that I adore. I love the gentle humor. 

Here is the song to which it refers. I feel like I need a reminder to serve every now and then. 

I keep thinking that I need to raise the bar of my own expectations regarding my mothering skills. I only have one chance to raise my children, and there is no 'rewind' button. Really, I spend too much time reading and ignoring the mounting messes and ignoring the clock that reminds me it's time to cook dinner. When this happens I'm very frustrated with myself. 

When I'm feeling blue, I put on my apron and suddenly I feel endowed with something akin to magic powers. I feel like I have increased patience and compassion for my children, increased energy and cheerfulness, etc. In a silly way, it makes me want to sing while I clean.  I know it sounds odd, but I sing when I'm doing the chores I hate the most. It's impossible to remain frustrated when I sing hymns or even "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" (Which is Daniel's most-requested song). I love the way it changes a tedious task into something joyful. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lesson on Forgiveness

For FHE last week I made an object lesson using a trail of yarn along the floor. It wound around furniture and led up the stairs. 

We asked the children to try following the trail while walking backwards. It was frustrating and was completed only haltingly. I compared this to living life without forgiving others. If we're facing the past and holding on the grievances, we can't focus on the future and enjoy life. 

We read the scripture where Jesus teaches his apostles to forgive all men. 

They tried the obstacle course again and walked facing forward this time. It was so much more fun and they giggled. They told me that it's fun to enjoy life when you can look forwards and stop focusing on what's behind you. I'm sure I should say something witty here about the innocent wisdom of children....but I can't think of of it now. I'm just happy they understood the point I was trying to make. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Great Expectations

I've been sick all week, barely managing to drag myself to our home school co-op classes that are held in the next town over. Teaching Art Class this week really did me in.

I don't have time to be sick.

I have children to teach, a home to clean, contractors coming to fix our rotting wall ('s still not fixed, contractors are all very busy cleaning up the aftermath of storm Hermine), a large festival to face paint in this weekend, business cards to re-order (after spending over an hour placing an order earlier), insurance claims to decode, church callings to fill, a sister going through a mid-life crisis at the age of 19, etc.

I feel overwhelmed. Each day this week I've stayed in bed until after 9:00am. And I've taken naps. I'm so tired of being sick.

I'll make a confession. This is the first time I've envied my friends who send away their children to public school. How horrible is that? I feel inadequate.

I need this persistent illness to leave my body so I can tackle what lies before me. I've decided that I need to stay in bed this afternoon and read some Charles Dickens. Ironically, I'm reading "Great Expectations".

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Video Ban

I had a shocking moment yesterday. I asked Matthew what his talents were. His first reply was "Playing the Wii." What?! I asked what else he likes to do for fun. I happen to know he plays outside a lot, creates a lot of art, cooks with Dad, plays the piano, and makes huge projects. I wondered which he would pick as his favorite activity. He said, "I just like playing video games and watching movies, Mom. Anything without a screen is bor-ing." Yikes!

I never thought I'd hear my children say this. I've always disliked it when children or families were stuck to a TV or stuck to video games. I had thought I had done a decent job of regulating their computer time with our bi-weekly "Screen-Free Days" and making sure the games and videos they watched were educational. But now I think if my kids can't think of a way to entertain themselves then that means they're losing their imaginations to the TV. As a result, I have imposed ban on any screens in the home for an extended period. No movies, no video games.

It's been a lovely day so far...the children are making pretend stories to act out while jumping on the trampoline. They've played the piano much more than normal and we've talked more.

What did we do for entertainment without TV today? Sarah made up a lovely pattern with tangram pieces while we enjoyed popcorn together and chatted. I am happy.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Lazy Sunday

The view out my car window earlier this week
How was your Sunday? This is how my day went:

I felt very ill this morning, and tried futilely to go back to sleep, hoping the illness was merely a manifestation of sleep deprivation. Not so. When I awoke a bit later, I felt no improvement. My sweet husband fed the children breakfast and helped them get dressed for church while I laid in bed wishing I felt better. Daniel was also sick, so he was assigned the privilege of staying in bed with me all day. 

The rest of the family disappeared to church for a few hours while Daniel and I read books in bed. I'm really loving 'Great Expectations' by Charles Dickens. Surprisingly, I've never actually read it before. It's great, but I am very biased. I love this author. 

Daniel slept for 3 hours, which is unheard of. This child resents sleep and almost considers it a personal failure when he succumbs to its embrace. He must be pretty sick today to let this nap happen for so long. The house is silent and I relish hearing only the sound of crisp pages turning.

The family returned home and Matthew rushed to my bedside to kiss me and ask if I feel better. He's such a sweet boy. He chatters and tells me all about his lesson in Primary (thank you Primary teachers for caring about my son!). They learned about talents and sharing our talents with others. The family had a quiet lunch downstairs of enchiladas and Cafe Rio-style pork and salad (I don't actually know the name for whatever it was that we ate. We always just call it 'Cafe Rio' food). 

I missed my children all morning, so for the afternoon we played games together at the table. The children played the piano and filled our home with music while I read more of Dickens, wrapped in a fuzzy blanket on the couch next to my sleeping Mister. 

We read books together and play 'Sardines' (did you ever play that as a child? My kids love it!) and realize at bedtime that we've purely forgotten about dinner. Nathan made a wonderful meal catering to my day-long nausea in an attempt to entice my appetite. He made gourmet biscuits (I never thought such a thing existed, but it does. Just look in a Culinary Institute cookbook, it's there.) and let the children cut out biscuits in Halloween shapes. We ate witches, howling cats, bats, ghosts and pumpkins. We also had a stray Christmas tree biscuit. They had so much fun choosing what shape to use. The biscuits were perfect when topped with peach-blueberry jam.

He also made mashed potatoes with gravy. Sarah really enjoyed helping to chop the potatoes. I made fruit smoothies. We enjoyed our strange meal far past our bedtime. Inwardly I'm thankful that we don't have to rise early the next morning. We trooped upstairs for prayers and bedtime stories. Sarah read a book with Nathan in my bed for another half hour...I read my book in my rocking chair. It was a blissful evening. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Simple Things

I love the simple things in life that add richness to my day. I especially love the little treasures that my children cherish, like notes from grandparents carefully kept in shoe boxes, or iridescent exoskeletons from colorful beetles carefully kept in jars, or deer antlers kept on a shelf as a trophy, or the softest and prettiest feathers from our flock of chickens.

Daniel LOVES feathers. When he was two, he always had a feather in his hand. Literally. 

He ate at the dinner table with one hand while his other chubby fist held feathers, and he'd wash his hands one by one, transferring the feather as he went. There are countless nights I discovered his sweaty palm still clenched around feathers in his sleep. When other children picked blossoms for their mother, Daniel would bring me the pretty feathers. I'd keep them in a vase near the kitchen sink. I love the way he has helped me see the wonder of our world better.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Art from kids and me

Yesterday I taught an art class for our home school co-op. I snapped a few pictures of the lesson. This is the warm-up exercise I do for them. They work on drawing several patterns that I make up. It helps them begin to analyze shapes and spatial relationships. Surprisingly, they beg me to make more patterns for them and very unwillingly give up the exercise to begin the real lesson. 

We learned about the different kinds of lines, and how they communicate motion or stillness. These pics are from the free-time art, where they made whatever they wanted and explored all the mediums.

Here is some my art from the past week.  It's a painting I worked on when my children were at the co-op on Tuesday. Some lovely ladies carpooled and took my kids to school, so I was blessed to stay home and make the tough choice between reading in bed all morning (isn't old British literature so alluring? I love it! My favorite authors are Charles Dickens and Jane Austen!) or painting in my studio. My unfinished painting called to me from the studio and won. It was a study in Van Gogh's techniques (just in case you can't painting hardly looks like his, so I added the clarification).

Friday, September 10, 2010

Home School Weekly Schedule

I started the year with a very structured schedule, where I literally had every 15 minutes perfectly scheduled so I would rotate subjects and children efficiently. Then I discovered that I don't like having a tight schedule, it made me feel like I didn't have freedom to spend more time with a particular struggling child, or add something unexpected and new to study. One of my favorite things about home school is the freedom to be flexible in what we learn or do.

I've changed our approach in the last 2 weeks, and now there isn't an hourly schedule for our work. Sometimes we do school in the evening or afternoon. When we do school in the morning, it usually starts around 8 or 9, but sometimes the children wake up at 6:45 and want to start school right away. I only care that the children get their schoolwork done for the day before they play computer games. I should also say that the only computer games we have are educational ones. For this reason I don't mind if they play the game for an hour. If they are enjoying doing math on a game, then more power to them.

The schedule I have outlined below is what our average days tend to look like. 

Monday- We begin with an introduction to our weekly "Hero from the Scriptures" and discuss what we can learn from them. We write this down and use it for copy work. (I'll do a more in-depth article about our weekly hero lessons soon). Each morning the rest of the week we learn more about our hero.

Next we do our Seat work. We happen to use the A Beka workbooks, so I have them do a page from each book. They choose the order in which they do the subjects. We all sit at the table together and I rotate who I spend instruction time with. Our seat work subjects include: Spelling, Math, Copy work, Language/Grammer, and Phonics. My youngest son (age 4) only does two pages of Phonics, then I let him play educational software on the computer or play with blocks and puzzles on the table next to us. The computer has headphones, so he can play games without disturbing others. His favorite game is Starfall - which is such a great free site for preschoolers. It teaches phonics and early reading.

We happen to be blessed with a great home school co-op composed of a couple other home school families. We meet four days each week and class goes from 10:30-2:00.

Monday is Art day, and is taught in my home. We welcome 10 students to our home and begin the co-op with a Pledge of Allegiance and recite a scripture-based theme (I'll do another article on that later- we call it the Knightly Code of Conduct). We learn a quick fact about the US Constitution, then move on to the art lesson. Art lasts an hour, then we break for lunch and recess. After play time, we regroup for 30 minutes of continued Art instruction. The final 30 minutes we read aloud from a classic book- right now it happens to be the Black Stallion.

Tuesday- We do Seat work for an hour, then drive to co-op at 10:00. The co-op teaches Science today. After we come home, we try to have a Tuesday Tea, which happens either in the afternoon or that night after Mr. Kingsley comes home and makes treats. It depends how tired we are. Tuesday Tea is when we teach etiquette, in addition to self-esteem and confidence. 

Wednesday- Morning seat work is followed by co-op, where they have Spanish and Creative Writing instruction.

Thursday- Morning seat work is followed by the co-op, where they have World History. We use Susan Wise Bauer's books for this course, and we love it!

Friday- I feel relaxed Friday, so if we do work- great. If not- I don't stress about it. The children have some 'Gifted and Talented' workbooks that use logic and thinking skills, and they pick whatever they want to work on out of the books. If I am feeling on top of things, we'll do a regular day of school. I like to take them out on day trips on Fridays, so we sometimes do a Plein Air lesson and discover a new green belt for the day. Our area is blessed with an abundance of museums, so we can go do that. Today we happen to be volunteering to help build a nature path in a pecan orchard.

We do reading everyday, but it's very casual. The children bring their readers to me and we cuddle on the couch to read, or I hold them in my lap, or caress their hair. I really feel strongly that they shouldn't be forced to sit at the table to do their daily reading. It's not fun or comfortable, and I really want them to love reading. I try hard to have positive stimulation associated with reading, so I'll rub their back gently or caress their arms while they read. They love it and will read for an hour at a time. This is a big deal for my son, who gets easily frustrated with phonics. It turns our previous battle ground into a positive experience for him.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Glimpses of Labor Day

We had a lovely time visiting my brother's family in San Antonio. They moved here 2 months ago, and it's been such a treat to have family close by! We spent the night in their home, played games, enjoyed good food, and swam in their pool. I love being around family!
Sisters together
Uncle Philip and Matthew play a hard game of Go Fish
Aunt Kathryn and Sarah playing water games
Look at Sarah's facial expression. Can you tell how much Sarah adores Aunt Kathryn? Aunt Kathryn's beautiful, just like a fairy tale princess. She's kind and always smiling. She always makes people feel loved and special. Sarah's decided Aunt Kathryn is one of her favorite people. I think Sarah has great taste. It's such a blessing to be friends with good people- people who see the best in us and inspire us to be better.

I love how my brother and his wife really inspire me to be more tuned to the voice of the Spirit. My brother has always been a great example to me, and I really appreciate it.

Think happy thoughts

Earlier this week I started a new painting and listened to the rain beat on the window in my art studio.

Actually my art studio is one corner of a room that also serves as an electrical engineering tinkering shop for Nathan (it share the same corner as my studio), a food storage room (the closet is full of non-perishable food), a storage room, and Sarah's temporary bedroom. I just love how luxurious it SOUNDS to say I was in my art studio.

I really enjoyed listening to the romantic sound of the rain, courtesy of Tropical Storm Hermine.

Flash forward several hours and it's a different story. Our city received almost a foot of rain in the last 2 days, and the rivers are flooding- some are 14 feet above capacity. Roads were flooded out and closed. Our home couldn't handle all the water and decided to welcome some of the deluge into our family room to join the family fun.

Now we have the pleasure of fixing a leaky roof, replacing a damaged wall, and replacing the carpet (which was flooded once really needed to be replaced anyway.). I have the adventurous task of calling insurance companies, making a claim, and trying to get a contractor to come (which is no easy task right now- lots of homes were damaged in the storm, so I can't even get anyone to come even give an ESTIMATE until next week. They're swamped with work. Happy day for contractors!). That means Mr. Kingsley gets the delightful task of climbing onto the roof and nailing a tarp on it to hopefully prevent more damage in the coming thunderstorms this week.

I was sitting on the couch starring at the ruined wall last night, feeling a bit overwhelmed. We are expecting company any day, and I host book club and a home school co-op in our home next week. The house smells horrible.

I needed some happy thoughts. Here are some:

Daniel makes art to share with the neighborhood
Sarah and our Happy Birthday wreath
Delightful mangoes and colorful art

Mommy's treasure box

Sarah is often begging me to show her my 'treasures'. As far as she's concerned, it's one of the greatest adventures taking a walk down memory lane.  My treasure box is the oak hope chest my mom gave me when I turned 16 years old. It holds an eclectic collection of items that hold sentimental value for me, things like old ribbons and awards from competitions, old baby blankets, pictures from high school proms, my graduation cap and know, all those things that are technically considered worthless to the world, but they are priceless to me.  

Sarah opening the hope chest for her afternoon of fun.

Sarah loves looking at the collection of old baby dresses. My mom saved the prettiest dresses I wore when I was a baby, and Sarah loves looking at the tiny buttons and shoes. I remember marveling over these when I was her age, wondering how I ever could have been so small. I saved Sarah's two prettiest dresses, the kind full of too many ruffles and lace so there's not much space for the baby left. 

The other highlight for Sarah is to open the box holding my childhood unicorn collection. She unwraps each tissue-covered figure and admires them. When I was little I was obsessed with unicorns. My mom would give me a porcelain unicorn each Christmas. Another treasure is my bridal bouquet.

This is one of my favorite treasures. It's a corn husk doll Matthew made and gave to me. He accidentally gave it only one strand of yarn for hair, so he affectionately called the doll "Mr. One Hair". He made it two years ago when we did a home school field trip to a historic farm. We made these dolls under a huge tree while we learned about Texas history. He adored this little husk doll and took very good care of it, he even slept with it once.  We laugh every time we see this doll.

Mr. One Hair

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Handwriting for Kinetic Learners

Matthew is a kinetic learner, meaning he learns best when he can involve his body or senses. He really didn't like hand writing (what boy does?) because he's still developing those fine motor muscles. It was hard to keep him interested in learning proper letter formation, so we came up with this idea:

I took a glass casserole dish and made a layer of cornmeal in the bottom of the pan. I used my finger as a writing utensil and taught him how to properly shape letters.

 After each letter, we'd 'erase' by simply patting the cornmeal with the palm of our hands. He had so much fun writing in the cornmeal. It was so much fun, he played with it all during recess time and drew artistic patterns.

 It was free to make, and a huge success.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Plein Air Lesson

Plein Air is the French-originated art form of making art while surrounded by nature. Artists take the easel, paints, and canvas out on a hike and set up the studio somewhere where they feel inspired, then they paint what they see. It can be a whole landscape or just a flower.

Today we did our first "Art in the Park" walk. This was our classroom for the day:

We picked a local park and went walking, making observations along the way. Sarah and Matthew toted along notebooks to write down the sounds they heard, interesting things they explored, and sketches of sites that they liked.

Right off the bat Sarah discovered a next of eggs in a tree trunk. It might as well been the gold at the end of the rainbow, for all the joy Sarah displayed over her discovery. I don't blame her. How often do you get to see such a treasure?

We set up the art studio on a picnic table and let the children explore the park. It was so funny to hear them shouting across the pond, "Look! There's NATURE over here! I found some nature!" 

I explained the advantageous features of various seed pods, the anatomical origin of various feathers, the biology of pond algae, and we explored fossils in the limestone. Whenever we go on nature walks, I encourage the children to find "Nature Treasures": anything interesting or beautiful that they find along the way. Soon my bag was filled with seed pods, interesting leaves, pretty pebbles, and handfuls of feathers. As we hiked, I decided next time I'm not carrying around a heavy bag filled with water bottles, picnic blankets, art supplies, and snacks. We'll just bring a small canvas bag for the treasures.

At the end of the outing we settled down to draw our favorite things from the scene. Matthew was proud of a goose feather he found, but was a bit disappointed with the quality of art it produced. There isn't much color. 

Sarah found a nifty spot for her desk. 

I have such fond memories of doing an English class in the mountains in Idaho. We'd split up across the valley and each draw something we saw, or write what sounds we heard, or read excerpts from Henry David Thoreau and discuss it. I developed such a deep appreciation for the natural beauty of the Earth, and I was extremely pleased that my children loved this activity. 

They didn't want to go home. I consider this class a success.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

FHE Cake Lesson

My sweet Nathan put together the neatest Family Home Evening lesson this week. To start the evening off, he taught the children how to make Lemon Cheesecake. Sarah read the recipe and the boys fetched ingredients and measured them. They all juiced fresh lemons and cracked eggs. Matthew really loved zesting the lemons best. After the cake was in the oven, we gathered in the living room for a discussion.

The yummy cheesecake, minus a 'taste test' slice. It passed.
Nathan explained the importance of following a recipe according to the cookbook when making cake. He asked what would happen if we didn't follow the instructions and just put in whatever ingredients we thought would work. The children replied solemnly, "We'd get a mud pie."

Nathan explained that the cook book has instructions that were developed by someone who knows how to make a perfect result, so if we follow the recipe exactly, we know that we'll have a perfect cake. He then handed each child a recipe that he wrote for them. Here it is:

Crispy Luscious, Delicious, and Happy Life
-A sweet and savory life. Use the highest quality ingredients!-

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1 Cup of Prayer
3 Seeds of Faith
1 Daily Sprinkle of Repentance
6 liquid ounces of Baptism
2 Heaping Tbs of Service

Mix the prayer and faith in a medium sized bowl. Slowly add the repentance in batches. Mix until light and fluffy. Pour in the baptism. Mix well.

Bake in a 350 for many many years. Garnish liberally with service.

Makes 1 serving.

There were scriptures Nathan selected to accompany each ingredient of the recipe. We read them and discussed what they mean and how they applied to our lives.

Nathan pointed out that the scriptures are the 'cook book' for a happy life, and they provide instructions for a perfect result. We know that if we follow the directions accurately, we are promised a happy product.

It was such a fun lesson, and the children were so proud of their cake.