Monday, October 31, 2011

I've been alternating between 15 minutes of cleaning and 15 minutes of resting. I got the idea to do this from Fly Lady. She is always saying to "set a timer."

This has done wonders for my house since I am keeping up with the regular chores and even getting to all the projects that I "didn't have time for" before (like cleaning out my closets and organizing my drawers).

It's also done wonders for my mental health since I am no longer discouraged by all the things that need to be done and I'm not overwhelmed by the prospect of cleaning without any end in sight.

I only start this alternating after we are done with school for the day, when I see the chores piling up and when have a few hours to kill (like in the afternoon once Avril goes down for a nap).

Before I started timing myself, I just cleaned and cleaned till it was all done and I dropped. But I find it easier to talk myself into fifteen minutes and right about the time I am feeling any strain from the work (Braxton Hicks are startin these days), the timer goes off and it's time to sit and rest again.

Watching the clock while I clean has an additional benefit. I now know just how long it takes to clean certain things in my home now and it's much easier to bring myself to do them knowing how very little time they really take (though it often feels like chores take much longer).

For instance, it takes three minutes to unload the dishwasher. That's it. Seriously. It is probably the same for you, too. And it takes three - four minutes more to load it again.

It usually takes ten minutes to do pots and pans. Interestingly enough, this is the part I don't mind as much. It's the loading and unloading that I really hate, even though it takes less than half the time than it takes to hand wash the pots.

It takes fifteen minutes (almost exactly) to clean my kitchen from "a state of emergency" messiness to near perfection. Add only five to ten more minutes to sweep and quick mop my kitchen floor to a shine. This is hard to believe, but it's true. It always felt like this took an hour, but it actually only takes fifteen minutes.

It takes three minutes to clean my bathroom doing everything but the serious, down and dirty scrubbing. That's it. Three minutes.

And it takes about five minutes to wash, dry and fold a load of laundry as I take it out of the dryer. If I wait to fold the clothes out of the basket the next day, for some reason, it takes twice as long.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

We reviewed all the parts of cells by building an edible cell with jello and candy for all the various organelles.

It was supposed to look like this, but when we turned ours over, it collapsed.

Norah wasn't too upset since it was still edible, after all.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

It snowed today! It usually doesn't snow till sometime in November! The girls played while I cooked dinner. They were so hungry that they licked their dinner right up. (I made them wait for hot chocolate till after they finished their meals.) I'd like to take the girls sledding tomorrow after church. I hope Dwayne feels up to it because I'll need his help getting the baby back up the big hill. It's only two days till Halloween, so I really hope the neighbors clear their walks in time for us to get to their doors for candy!
Five stars for Cadoo! I got this board game a long time ago from the thrift store for something like $3. It didn't have the wrapper on the outside, but all the inside parts were still wrapped and accounted for so it was basically brand new. We finally got around to playing it last night and it is awesome. This is a really fun game for parents to play with kids between the ages of 10-6. It really helps if kids are reading on a basic elementary level. Our youngest, Avril, couldn't play but we sat her with us and we gave her her own pieces to hold and the sculpting clay kept her busy while the rest of us took turns. I think this might be our new favorite thing for a while.

Friday, October 28, 2011

My Resolutions for 2011.

Run a 5k.
This one will stay on the list to be completed sometime next year once I am up and going again.

Follow Fly Lady's Flight Plan every single day.
I'm doing better with this since I am not so sick. I can usually manage to do everything Fly Lady assigns by the end of the day or make up for it by doing double or triple later in the week.

Mend my quilts.
I am sewing the girls' Halloween costumes right now. I made Avril a dress and I am working on another dress and two sets of pajamas. I had forgotten I even wanted to mend my quilts. But I think I can manage to mend them as I am sitting under them by the fire and I'm doing that more and more often now that the weather has gotten chilly.

Let Norah play outside
She hasn't been out much at all lately. If it's sunny out this week, I'll encourage her to play in the yard, at least once. I've been meaning to take her to The Jump Zone, but I haven't felt up to that either (or I haven't had the money for admission). One good thing is we are having lots of company and this helps keep her from being isolated. She may be inside, but at least she isn't lonely.

Read through the entire Bible.
I missed about half a dozen days in September, but besides that, I am still on track with this plan. I plan to go back and re-read the six days I missed soon.

I started serving as our community group's prayer leader. It's nothing extraordinary. I just open or close our group prayers and I'll talk about prayer sometimes. I plan to spend some time during the coming weeks praying for my friends in the group and their loved ones, etc. as an unseen yet effective way to bless them.

Read one book every month.
I need to finish King's Cross and then go on from there. I have several books lined up that I'd like to read, but I am out of the habit of reading at this point. I have a lot of catching up to do if I am going to read twelve books for myself by the end of the year.

Eat fruit and vegetables
I haven't been craving fruits and vegetables like I was before so I haven't been eating them as often. When I am not pregnant, I can usually eat what I know is nutritious without consequence, but being pregnant, it seems like my body rejects or and has a much harder time digesting food it doesn't crave. For example, I had some fresh lettuce today and it about killed me. Without warning, I threw up in the kitchen sink as I was working in the kitchen. If I follow my cravings (no matter how unhealthy they are), I never, ever throw up so it's just easier to go with what I want.

No late night eating.
I'm still doing well with this because I try and finish eating and take supplements at least three hours before I go to bed so I am not sick at night.

Be consistent in the garden.
The weeds have taken over out there. I feel sorry for our neighbors who have to see my flower bed but in all honesty, I've totally given up the fight. I'll try to maintain my garden again once my body and my life allow me the freedom to work in the yard again.

Stop talking in bed.
I'm doing alright with this.

Go to be early.
I find it harder to lay in bed lately so I just stay up later and make sure I will actually go right to sleep when I lay down. I will often take cap naps on the couch while Avril naps and after I finish with Norah's school work with her. I might be tired because of the fact that I am up later, but it feels like I am actually just getting worn out quicker because my body is growing and working on this baby.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

This is a picture of one of Norah's ongoing science projects. We will add body systems to this body as we study them in Human Anatomy and Physiology this year.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"I know I say other people I like are 'best friends.' But Avril is my best, best friend." -Norah

And Avril totally heard Norah say this, too! They gave each other a big hug because of this and I grabbed my camera because it happened to be right there. When I took this picture, Avril was still gushing over what her big sister had said about her. It brings tears to my eyes to see Avril's joy in this photo.

The night before this, I actually went to bed wondering if Norah was getting enough "socialization." We have a lot of her friends over to play and we see friends at church, etc. but I was beginning to wonder if a two year old was a good enough companion for a seven year old day after day after day... Norah had no idea I was thinking about these things. She just said what came to heart at the moment and it just happened to answer all my doubts.

I think one of the weaknesses with formal school is that it can subtly weaken sibling bonds over the years, particularly with siblings that have large age differences. Sisters and brothers are kept from one another for such long hours, for so many months at a time that it's hard for them to become good friends and they aren't given the time or opportunity to learn how to appreciate and accommodate someone so very different. I was thankful for such a timely and vivid reminder of why home school is still the best choice for my family.

I've been sewing the girls' Halloween costumes. You can see the beginning of Norah's Princess Leia costume above. But being around all those great fabrics and patterns in the store inspired me to make Avril a little dress for the winter. I've been meaning to learn at least one simple pattern that I can use again and again to bang out some clothes for the girls when they need something new but when we may not have the money to shop or be able to find something we like in the stores (which seems to be happening more often these days since clothes for little girls are getting more and more mature and provocative, even within just the last few years).

This pattern seemed like a good choice because I can make minor changes to the length of the sleeves or the dress itself and have simple dresses, shirts and even nightgowns. And, depending on the choice of fabric, this pattern will work for winter or summer clothes alike.

I've lacked the confidence to try anything with sleeves till now, but I felt like it was time to force myself to learn the skill because it's pretty critical to sewing garments. I used fabric from an old twin sheet and quick stitched the pattern, learning and making and then fixing all my mistakes as I went. (I sewed the sleeves with the hem on the outside on my first try.) But once I learned what to do/ what not to do, I made the dress again right away with the fabric below. This time I took time to iron as I went, reinforce the seams, serge and trim all the inside edges, etc. I also added an inch to the length and took off an inch from the sleeves, making it a better fit for Avril's frame.

I am very proud of myself and feel as if I have opened up a whole new world of possibilities for myself now that I can sew things with sleeves. This dress is a soft flannel (thick enough not to need a lining), so Avril will be able to wear it through the winter with some thick tights and boots. I've been thinking about making another dress or two like this because there are several adorable fabrics in the store right now and it would be an easy way to get her better prepared for cold weather. But I really should get back to making Leia and Yoda costumes, at least for now, because Halloween is only five days away!

We just covered the Middle and New Kingdoms in The Story of the World, Volume 1: Ancient Times and Norah made Egyptian bracelets for her history project. We cut a toilet paper roll down one side and then in half and Norah painted them with gold craft paint.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"If you don't have a schedule when you get up in the morning make one up and then tell it to your child." -Susan Wise Bauer

We (meaning I) don't like schedules.

We (meaning I) hate them.

But, ever since I heard Bauer give the advice above, when we're eating breakfast, I'll make a list of what I'd like Norah to do that day for school and I'll let her number the list 1 to whatever and we do the work in that order.

She knows reading always goes last because she reads for an hour or more.

The "school" part of our days go much smoother now.

Norah is more aware that she isn't done when she finishes this or that. She doesn't go running out of the room before I can gather my thoughts like she did before. She usually tells me what's next.

Schedules like this are awesome.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Something's wrong. I've saved this photo straight up and down and it's still loading into my blog post sideways. Oh well.

Norah colored this coloring sheet for United Nations Day yesterday. We talked to her about the UN, it's history and purpose and she colored this landmark and flag so she will be able to recognize it in the future.

Here's the coloring sheet, if you are interested.

"The big problem with writing is while the child is developing the skill he's got to simultaneously fill that skill with content. It's a little bit as though the kid were learning how to play the piano and the only way he could learn to play the piano is to compose his own music at the same time."

-Jessie Wise Bauer

I like Norah's writing curriculum because it makes sense to me and it is the answer to all the nagging doubts I've had when looking into other writing programs for young ones through the years.

It doesn't require Norah to write paragraphs and more paragraphs before she has anything real to say. In my opinion, it makes no sense to expect a seven year old to come up with at a moment's notice several facts on African wildlife or time travel or her last trip to the zoo or whatever.

And the program doesn't ask her to make up stories out of thin air, either. I've never thought it made sense to expect a kid to write from "Once upon a time" to "...happily ever after" before she could even spell those the words correctly. Some people write creatively naturally. I write daily, but I am not one of them.

What Norah's writing curriculum does do is model excellent language to her until she is old and wise enough put it use for herself in whatever way she'll need or want to.

She is learning basics like sentences start with capital letters and end with periods and critical things of that sort while she is young enough to absorb them with ease.

She hears and then narrates or copies from some of the best passages in childrens' literature.

So, when the time comes, when she's ready to say her own things (and write them down), she'll model, without even thinking, all the good language she's heard and seen along the way.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

"Can I do reading first?"

Norah asks this every single day and every single day I say, "No."

I have good reason for denying her, even such a great request as that.

Norah will read a whole book in one sitting and reading will often take her up to an hour or more because she's reading serious chapter books now.

If I were to let her do reading first, we'd never get around to doing math or spelling, etc. and if we did ever get around to it, she'd be so spent, she wouldn't do those subjects well.

So reading always comes last. It's like a reward for all the other hard work that came before.

But I do let her choose what I can.

If I know we have to do math, grammar, writing and history today (before she does reading), I'll let her choose which of those she does first and next and next... and in that way, she gets some say in her day and it's enough to satisfy her until she gets to do what she really wants to do anyway:


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Norah's ming bowl. She made it over a period of several days using white air-dry clay and blue craft paint. It goes along with her history chapter on Ancient China in The Story of the World, Volume One: Ancient Times.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A friend of mine has a ton of great books that I've never even heard of. I asked her about it and she said she's found most them by looking up the authors of books she already knows she likes and seeing what else they have written. I liked this idea so I started doing it with Norah's Sonlight 4-5 reader list and I've already found some great titles that way. The book on Sonlight's list was called "More Stories From Grandma's Attic." So I looked up other books by that author and found a book that was meant to come before it called "In Grandma's Attic." So I gave this to Norah before I gave her the book on Sonlight's list. In this way, I hope I can keep finding more good books that aren't on some of the main lists.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Here's a shout out to my big brother for sending more school supplies. We came home to a box at the door and the girls rightly assumed it was from "Uncle Donnie!" Last time, it was markers. This time, it was colored pencils. Thanks Donnie (and Mom and Dad and Sissy). I know you all will often coordinate to do this kind of thing for us. We appreciate it. Every supply we don't have to buy makes our home school (private school at home) endeavor much easier to manage.

People wonder how I manage to homeschool.

I tell them homeschooling is the easy part.

Keeping the little one busy while I homeschool her older sister, now that's the hard part!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

This is what happens when I have to stop reading with her to help her big sister with school work. A big part of Avril's "curriculum" right now is learning to be flexible, share and wait. Isn't she sweet, though? :)

In reading: Norah's already done with all her Sonlight 3rd grade readers. We're moving on to 4th-5th grade readers now!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

We did our first lesson on verbs in First Language Lessons , Level 1. To add some spice to the lesson, I had the bright idea of letting Norah find photos of verbs in an old camping magazine I was getting ready to throw out. (It was Monday and Fly Lady says to purge your old magazines on Mondays.) Norah cut and glued and then told me what verbs to write under the photos. I think she did well!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Norah's been reading to Avril before Avril takes a nap. Of course, this makes it so much more difficult for Avril to leave her sissy and go to bed.

In the past, I have cared very little about how much we accomplish accomplish day by day, even grade by grade at times. I have not stuck to a strict daily, weekly, yearly schedule. Even distinctions like the grade levels on the covers of books don't really matter to me as long as Norah is progressing at a steady pace and doing a reasonable amount of work everyday. I am even fine with Norah working out of a first grade book when she is in second grade, etc. especially because many of her books are advanced for her age to begin with.

But there is a certain amount of material I'd like for Norah to have finished (or almost finished) by the time she gets to "middle school." With that in mind, I decided to go ahead and break it down subject by subject and see what adjustments, if any, I need to make to progress at a better pace toward our goals.

In math: I'd like Norah to be ready to do Math U See's Pre-Algebra in 7th grade. This way she will be free to master the upper level maths from 8th grade through the end of high school.

She is almost done with the Alpha book (First Grade - Addition and Subtraction). In fact, she's on Lesson 27 out of 30. I'd like for her to finish the Alpha book and also complete the next book, Beta (Second Grade - Addition and Subtraction with Double Digits), by the time she begins of third grade in September 2012.

She has approx. ten months to finish all that work by the time the next school year comes around. We will have to do math every single weekday (instead of three-four times a week like we have been), but I think we can do it. We are well on track to be in Pre-Algebra by 7th.

In history: I'd like to finish all four Story of the World books by the time Norah starts fifth grade and cycle through these four books again two more time by the time she graduates high school.

We have some real catching up to do and I don't think we can afford to get further behind at this point, so we will need to do two books in the course of one year or three in the course of two years, but I think we will be able to catch up eventually. We need to pick up the pace and probably even work year-around on history, if nothing else, for a while.

As it stands, we are on Chapter 12 out of 42 in The Story of the World Volume One: Ancient Times. I'd like to finish that book and get into the next book, The Story of the World, Volume Two, Middle Ages, by the beginning of next school year.

Right now, we often stretch a chapter of history over two or three weeks because we have so much extra reading to do on the topics in that chapter. This is the problem with our pace. I plan to begin starting the next chapter even when Norah is still reading books about the previous one. I think she can read about old topics while learning about new ones without being too confused. In that way, I hope we can stick to the pace of one chapter each week until we catch up.

For grammar: We're on Lesson 52 out of the 100 lessons in First Language Lessons - Book 1. I'd like to be through Book 1 or almost finished with Book 2 by the the beginning of the next school year. I think we can do it if we do a lesson every single day of the week and quit skipping grammar as much as we do now. It isn't our favorite subject because it's kind of drab, but it's a necessary evil and we get it done in less than ten minutes anyway so we really have excuse for falling behind.

In handwriting: Norah's on page 26 out of 165 in her current Zaner Bloser workbook. The goal is for her to finish that book by the time she starts the school next year, so if she keeps up her current pace, she will finish in plenty of time to start the third grade workbook at the beginning of next year.

In writing: Norah is working out of Writing with Ease: Level 1. There are approx. 150 lessons in this book. I think it's realistic for us to assume she will finish Level 1 in time to start Level 2 in the third grade. She will continue to progress through the four books in the series from there. She may need to do some catch up eventually, in order to start the more advanced books for middle school when she ought to, but I'd like for her writing skills to improve before I push her to do more than one lesson a day.

In Science: I still have a lot of thinking and reading to do in order to set long term goals for this subject. I am not happy with my curriculum choice for this year. It's very advanced. I feel certain Norah could use the book later down the line. But I have to decide what I am going to do about science and decide quickly.

In Spelling: We have just started All About Spelling Level 1. We are still learning all the phonograms. We plan to progress through all seven levels of this program at Norah's pace until we finish them, hopefully sometime in late elementary or early middle school. By that time, Norah will need to spell in order to write reports, etc. so it should all flesh out at about the right time.

In Reading: Norah is in second grade, but she is flying through the books on Sonlight's third grade readers. She has two books left before she starts their forth and fifth grade readers. In this way, Norah is so, so advanced! She reads a book that's meant to be read over weeks in one afternoon!

In music: Norah is learning about the orchestra, classical music and famous composers using several resources. She is also learning how to read music and keep time by playing the recorder. She will eventually start piano lessons and do that for at least two years, but we are waiting until we feel she is old enough to take responsibility for practicing and better appreciate what she is learning, etc.

In art: We have the book Discovering the Great Artists but we (meaning I) have yet to open it. I've got to find a time that works for me. It may have to be Saturday morning because art just seems to fall by the wayside during the school week (especially such a messy art program).

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I listened to another lecture by Jessie Wise Bauer called "Homeschooling the Real Child." One of the topics she addressed in this speech was the frustration homeschooling moms feel because their daily expectations aren't being met.

She suggested that home school moms take a few moments to "Write out what your perfect home school day looks like" and said this was a good way to find out whether or not your home school expectations were even realistic to begin with.

Note: I know I will often get frustrated and discouraged when I see a book just sitting on the shelf day after day and we still haven't gotten around to reading it together. But now that I have articulated what I think our "perfect" day looks like or rather, what I think is most important to accomplish on any given day, etc. I see that I am usually meeting my own expectations and I really shouldn't be discouraged about the books that are "just sitting on the shelf" because we aren't working in them as much.

For example, Norah's recorder book is one of those that spends a lot of time on the shelf. But, now that I have thought about it rationally, we don't spend as much time on music or make it as much of a priority right now so, obviously, that's why the recorder book isn't used as much.

What was not realistic was for me to expect Norah to be as good at playing the recorder as she is at say, adding and subtracting or reading. She's very good at those things but I have also made those things a priority so naturally, Norah does well at them because we spend more time on them.

Doing this exercise also made me realize my perfect day doesn't include much, if any, television or video games. That made me realize I need to curb Norah's screen time a lot more than I have been doing lately because I want her and Avril to be doing other, more meaningful things together instead.

If you're interested, here's my "perfect" home school day:

We wake up and I manage to complete my morning routine before breakfast. The girls play until we have breakfast together. Norah gets dressed while I dress Avril. I clean the kitchen while Norah does handwriting. Avril plays quietly near my feet. Norah and I drill math facts together. Norah does her math page while I prepare the project for science or history. We do Bible, spelling, language, writing and then science or history together, including the project. Norah reads a book silently while I read to Avril and work with her on ABCs and 123s. Norah answers comprehension questions about her book or narrates parts of the story to me. We have lunch. Norah reads to Avril before her nap. Avril naps while Norah paints or does a puzzle or reads and completes narrations and drawings about her books, etc. We bake cookies together or clean together or play a board or card game before I start dinner. Avril wakes up and the girls play together until dinner. We eat dinner as a family and then sit and listen to a read aloud as a family or play a board or card game. The girls play until it's time to get ready for bed.

Friday, October 14, 2011

I let Norah make her own lunch yesterday. Here's how.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Norah made paper bead necklaces to go along with her study of ancient Africa in history. These necklaces are still being made today and they are very beautiful. We used construction paper this time but I think we will try this again soon with some old, glossy magazine pages and then cover the beads with a mixture of glue and water to varnish. Here's a tutorial if you are interested in making some yourself.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Norah put together a puppet show for Avril one afternoon while Avril napped. She sang "Old MacDonald" and made all the animal puppets appear when it was their turn to make their noises with a "moo" or a "neigh," etc. Only problem with the whole idea: Avril wanted to be with Norah on the other side of the curtain and didn't understand why she was being forced to sit in the audience. She whined and/or cried through the whole thing. I think we will try this again soon. Maybe Avril will enjoy holding one of the puppets and I will just fill the audience myself.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

After we picked apples on Saturday, Norah and her dad made two pies that evening. Dwayne did an incredible job with Norah. I overheard him saying things like, "1 slash 3 means one-third of a cup. Look for the cup with 2/3 on it. Okay. Half of that cup or up to that middle line is one-third. Fill it up to there." and "Packed brown sugar... What do you think 'packed' means?" What he covered with Norah in that one evening puts her so far ahead of where I was when I started baking and cooking.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I spent my free time this afternoon listening to a lecture called "Teaching Students to Work Independently" given by Susan Wise Bauer. It was only a few dollars to download and it was well worth the cost, in my opinion. I probably had to pause it fifty times to deal with the kids and the phone, etc. But it is nice that I own it so I can listen to it again in the future.

While some of the content of this lecture didn't exactly apply to us right now (she speaks about how to teach all levels of students from elementary through middle and high school), I found that it was a good reminder of why I am trying to do all that I am doing now and how it will "pay off" for Norah in the future. So much of what I am doing now is training her to be capable of so much more later on.

I think I will try and listen to all Bauer's lectures available online here. It's certainly more productive and inspirational than watching crap on Hulu with my free time!

Here's a short quote from the lecture that I really liked. So many people are critical of schedules and plans. Sometimes I even wonder whether they don't just squash all joy and creativity in the learning process. I guess I want both the academic rigor and freedom that's possible with home school and it's hard to know how to create an environment to allow for both. But Bauer answers this concern well, I think, when she says:

"If the kid gets really into one subject and wants to keep doing it all day, absolutely, this is the point where you ditch the schedule. The schedule is not your master, it's an aid. What you do then, if the kid does history all day long, is that the next day you say, 'You can't start with history today. I'm going to pick your first subject today and it's going to be math.' You do have to be the one to keep the balance during the week. But, yes, absolutely, why are you home schooling if the kid can't grab something and run with it? You should always let them do that."

Saturday, October 8, 2011

We took the kids to the apple orchard today.

We shared one apple among us all while we picked.

We got two bags full of apples: one bag to bake with, one bag to eat fresh.

Avril is not the most cooperative kid when taking photos. "Avril, Look at Mommy!" and she looks straight down. These pics were the best out of all I took today.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Monday, October 3, 2011

Avril reading to her babies. (These were my babies first. My mom gave them to me back when I was Norah's age.) She set them up like this, leaving room for herself on the pillow and then grabbed a book, crawled onto the couch, laid back next to them and covered her legs with a sheet she dragged out of Norah's room. She'd chatter for a little and turn a page and then ask, "Okay Babies?" I guess she wanted to make sure they were getting it all.