Monday, April 28, 2008


Someday I may forget that there ever was a time that I felt the children would always need me to entertain them or oversee each and every activity at their demand. But, right now I am totally enjoying this new found sense of self-entertainment.

Some days I think Robbie is already feeling the pressure of living with all of us females. He heads out to his car where he will just "drive" for 15-20 minutes. Good thing it is a flinstone-powered car and not gas at the current prices.

Then there is playdoh. That wonderfully, crumbly material that I no longer allow inside my house. Have you ever seen a dog puke playdoh?

It is a magnet for the kids. You set one child up with two colors, and the next thing you know, everyone is out there and the whole box has been dragged out.

The highlight of the weekend though was walking into the family room and finding that the children had pulled down some of our science boxes. The science boxes are where I store all the bits and pieces of various science kits. My first thought was about the huge mess they were going to make with all the little pieces. But, then I saw...

Mary with a book open, following directions...doing it herself. In my personal life this is when you might hear the choir sing, honestly.

She started off with the AM/FM radio kit, but we could not find the resistor. She put that away and pulled out the human body model we must have bought about two years ago. I believe we put it away when I became frustrated over trying to fit a few of the pieces together.

A little time, a bit of chocolate and strawberry ice cream

I really didn't help her one bit with this. I was in the other room on the computer, except when I snuck in with the camera. And, she skipped the blood vessels, which really are a pain to attach.

It is a good thing the children were so productive this weekend, because I just wasn't. I managed to catch a cold and worked most of the weekend to just keep my head and ears from throbbing. I did some grocery shopping, working on restocking some of my stockpile and, well that is pretty much it. Really...I was a lazy bum.



Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Earth Day

We made it through our "No Electronics" Day. Several times I had to stop myself from running to the computer to check weather radar and my favorite forums. I found myself wondering "What's going on in the world?" constantly. The kids made it though okay, at least until 4:00. That is when they started asking for a movie or TV shows. Then the friends showed up and everything was cool again.

The first part of the day was really no different than any normal day. We decided to take a walk, and since I did need some things from the grocery store, that is where we went. Instead of the more direct route, we walked the greenway and totally enjoyed ourselves. There was a stream to wander along, birds to watch and discussions to have. To go to the grocery store and come home took us more than two hours. It didn't even dare to rain until we were safely back home.

Then we painted. Katie thought that since it was Earth Day she needed to paint a picture of the Earth. Of course all the others thought it was a great idea to paint.

While everyone else had quiet time in the afternoon, Mary and I pulled out the sewing machine and we finished her new shirt together.

We didn't do too bad a job for a bunch of amateurs.

She spent the rest of the afternoon involved with making little pockets (to hold her treasures) and doll dresses from some of the scrap pieces I have. Next up we are going to make a pair of capris for her. And, she has a friend that wants her to make a shirt like the one she has.

I was actually able to have some down time during the afternoon. It was nice to sit in the rocker by the window, listen to the classical station on the solar-powered radio and journal.

We are going to keep having no electronic days from time to time. It is good for us to remember the simpler things. And, I don't really need to spend time watching the rain heading for us or the stockmarket tumble. In both cases if it is going to fall, it's going to fall.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Not ready for this week

I'm sitting here in the silence of this morning thinking about how I am just not ready for another week. How can this be? We just came off a week of Spring Break, followed by a week of field trips. We've only had one week of school since then, and I am tired. This week I want to concentrate on our Unit Study, and do our projects. We have such fun projects sitting here waiting on us.

What is it I don't want to do? I don't want to have to sit here and flip through our workbooks an figure out what I am supposed to put on the "To Do" list. But, without the flipping "To Do" list my home dissolves into loud, disorganized, manic chaos. Then I become very irritable.

It should be a pretty fun week, if we can just get to it this week. Tomorrow, Tuesday, is Earth Day and we have already decided that we are going to do our best to go electricity free for 12 hours. We have already discussed those things that will not be included in the unplugging frenzy; refrigeration, stove/oven and telephone. The forecast is calling for clouds, rain and cooler temps.

Yesterday I went out and picked up some green pepper and tomato plants. Also, seeds for the other various produce that I am hoping to get more of than greenery this year. So, all of that needs to be planted this week.

And, finally, Mary has been begging to learn how to sew. Not that it matters that I barely even know the basics to sewing from a pattern and have to re-read the instruction book every time I want to use my sewing machine. So we have a pattern and material to make a tie-around tank shirt and two pairs of capris. And, one child absolutely in a frenzy to start.

Please tell me what has made shorts go out of style this year. Mary only wants capris or knee-length shorts and Katie only wants to wear skirts and skorts. For being homeschooled and under ten, this children are amazingly conscious of what they wear.

So, you can see the projects are oh, so much more interesting than math and grammar. I'll let you know how it goes. Maybe not tomorrow, as I will not be on the computer until after dinner if even then.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Thursday, Really?

In one way it feels like the week is flying away, out of control. We are good Monday and Tuesday, but then Wednesday hits and we actually have to leave the house...wheeeee! In another way, I have fooled myself into thinking it is Friday because in my frugal-conscience way I decided to do our grocery shopping today instead of Friday. This allows us to not have to drive anywhere tomorrow. So, again, what day is it?

I want to share a really awesome map link. I found this months ago, thought it would be neat to use at some time and then promptly forgot about it. I re-found it in my bookmarks when I was pulling things together for our China study. This allows you to print out really large maps by using normal paper and printer. You just put them together, like a puzzle, and tape. We have a 3' by 3' map of East Asia we are using and Mary really enjoyed the process of fitting it together.


Tonight we are making ice cream, after much begging on behalf of the children. After purchasing the needed ingredients to make a very, very simple chocolate ice cream, I have decided it is one of those things that is actually cheaper to by on sale already made, than made at home. Wow, has anyone seen the price of cream?



Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Art Teacher

I have a piece of artwork hanging next to the computer area (not the one above) that I have had since Mary's days at full-time daycare. At one point this hung in my cubicle when I worked. She has to be around 3 when she did it at school. Apparently, five years later, she suddenly remembered how she did it. And, that became our art lesson for the day.

Our days have kind of fallen into the routine of preschool activities in the morning, group activities and chores in the late morning, and Mary's concentrated lessons after lunch (when Robbie is napping and the other two have quiet time).

Monday, Mary decided she wanted to teach Katie and Emily this really neat painting trick at the end of their 'day'. She set up the table and all the paints. I found the materials she needed: large shoe box and some marbles (we used the metal balls from the Magnetix collection). I kept an eye on it, while also chasing Robbie around, until I could see that Mary really did have this 'class' well under control. Then Robbie and I headed off to his room for some real one-on-one play time.

As Mary described it what you do is: tape or make sure a piece of paper fits securely in the bottom of the shoebox. Then, taking the marbles dip them into the paint color of choice (Mary chose to use two different paint colors on each marble). After the marbles are loaded with paint drop how many you want to use in the shoebox and gently tip an move the box around so the marbles roll every which way.

Twenty minutes later they had all sorts of beautiful pieces of artwork for me to hang. Mary and Katie did all the clean-up after they were done.

Everyone changed out of their paint-spattered clothes an we headed out to run the one errand we had. The 1/2 mile trip to Blockbuster where I was going to exchange some of our mail-ordered videos for some in store ones. In particular we were picking up The Indian in the Cupboard that Mary has been dying to see since last week. We also picked up Alvin and the Chipmunks which the girls have raved about since they saw it in the theater.

Lunch, then lessons and as the dark clouds and more rain showers moved in we settled in for a movie afternoon. Katie and Emily had no interest watching The Indian in the Cupboard, so they watched their own movie in the play area. Mary and I watched The Indian in the Cupboard and really, really enjoyed it. It wasn't all that different from the book and what was different were things that really didn't make a difference in the storyline. We discussed some of the parts that were different, and how even if they were the same; how what we imagined when listening to the book was different. Mary came up with some different ways that they could have made the actors so tiny, or seem so tiny.

Sometimes I really just have to shout: I LOVE HOMESCHOOLING!! This is the year it has come together for us. And, experiences like our trip last week, the books Mary has been interested in recently, fun activities for the younger crew, discussions we have it is so much more than we have had the previous years. I finally get it...what people were talking about on the forums and blogs when I fell in love with the idea of homeschooling. The last few years I've had to really lean on that love of the idea of homeschooling when the kids got antsy, my curriculum choices were duds and when I pushed to hard and fast, and wondered if I was a failure. I am so glad that at least for this moment, I'm on this side of those thoughts.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Yes, We are home

It has been a busy weekend to wrap up our whirlwind trip. We had two soccer games on Saturday, with a 45-minute break between games. That made for a long morning at the fields for the little ones, and I even ended up bringing them home early for lunch and naps. DH stayed out there to watch Mary's game. Most of the season we have lucked out and Mary and Katie will be playing at basically the same time, or back-to-back.

DH did a really good job cleaning the house while I was gone, so I tried to spend some time keeping it that way. With a laundry basket in just about every room of the house, why are there still clothes on the floor - I will never understand.

Sunday a friend of mine was getting remarried, so Mary and Katie attended the wedding with me. DH has begun his seasonal weekend work and couldn't attend. A neighbor watched Robbie and Emily for us until he came home. I believe Mary and Katie were disappointed in the wedding. A wedding, in their minds, is one of those extravagant made-for-TV princess affairs. This was a second wedding for both of the couple and was very low-key with just family and close friends. But, they did get to play with several friends of theirs and eat cake & ice cream, which I am sure made up for it.

Came home to find DH doing my afternoon chores, with plans to take all the children out to the park. Wow- is it my birthday? Since I had library books due (don't I always) I hopped on my bike and rode to the library - ALONE. I was only going to return the books, but since I was there I couldn't resist a little browsing. When I checked out I actually went to the desk and paid my fines with some cash leftover from the trip. Now I can stop feeling like I am sneaking in and out and hoping that the self-checkout computer doesn't refuse my card.

When I got home I piddled on the computer pulling together some worksheets, maps, etc. for this coming week. Played a quick game of mahjong and so forth until it was time to make the pizzas for dinner. While they cooked, I pulled out a library book and sat in my rocker reading, without hopping up every sentence or two to help someone.

That was my weekend. Now it is Monday, after one week off and one week traveling. Give me strength.


Friday, April 11, 2008

Last Days

Here we are wrapping up our visit. Where has the week gone? None of us can believe that we are already heading home, although each of us are looking forward to being home for different reasons. Daddy seems to top the list for all of us. We have missed having him with us this week.

Yesterday morning we had some time before we needed to leave on our field trip to Beaufort, so the girls took me down to the beach so they could show me all the things they had found the past couple of days. When we stay with my father the girls would spend all their time down at the sound shore exploring the marshes for all sorts of treasures. So far this week we have more fish backbones, a few crab legs and many variety of clam shells. There was one treasure that they wisely decided that they shouldn't bring back to show me...

From my research (google) it appears to be a mushroom jellyfish, and is considered a culinary delicacy by the Japanese. It is not poisonous and does not have the stinging tentacles some jellyfish do. But, I am glad that the girls respect the power of these creatures and wisely chose to leave it be. Many visitors to our beaches in the summer are hurt every year by handling dead jellyfish.

The visit to Beaufort was fairly short. We chose not to do the tour due to some time limitations. Choosing instead to give the children our own tour, which isn't too hard considering I have probably spent more time immersed in Carteret County history than many of the volunteers.

The biggest success out of the trip is that Mary has realized that history really isn't some irrelevant nonsense I make her study. In this trip I was able to introduce her to family ancestors that either came over on the Mayflower, or shortly afterwards (we don't have the family tree details we need to confirm this), later moved to the NC colony from Mass and were granted a Land Grant signed by King Charles, served on the NC Assembly in New Bern (actually meeting in Tryon Palace), were part of the Continental Congress, built Fort Macon (one of her favorite places here), was a part of President Lincoln's staff, Chinese Missionaries, American diplomat to Columbia, writers, artists, etc.

She was so interested that we spent some of the evening pouring over the genealogy book my great-great-aunt Amy wrote about this branch of our family. Then mom showed her the family tree we had put together when I was in middle school. Now I have promised her that I will start working on a family tree for her, including her father's side. This should be fun.

I knew I had her when she began complaining about why scientist haven't worked out a way to travel back in time so that we could actually see how things happened and how people really lived. My mom and I just glanced at each other, because that is one of our fantasies also.

For what I wanted this trip to be in relation to our 'school' it has been a HUGE success. I could not have asked for a better visit, and what Mary has absorbed from this trip was beyond what I really expected. I am so glad that we took the time out to come.



Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Tryon Palace

Day three of our field trip took us to Tryon Palace.
Tryon Palace served as the seat of government for the Colony of North Carolina just prior to the Revolutionary War. This isn't actually the original building, that burned in the 1780's. This was rebuilt at the beginning of the 20th century, based upon the original architectural designs and descriptions from letters of visitors to the original building.

The tour is completed with re-enactors throughout the palace and grounds, really giving us an excellent living history lesson.

The tour inside was very interesting, and even though Mary and Katie were the only children in our group, they really enjoyed the the tour. Mary's highlight was seeing the bedroom of the 10-year-old daughter of Governor Tryon, including the room (called a closet) that served as her classroom.

I personally found the kitchen building very interesting. This building housed not only the kitchen, but also the laundry and bedrooms for the household servants. In the laundry we were given a demonstration of combing and spinning wool.

Katie's and my mother's favorite part of the palace were the gardens. We were there at the perfect time for the blooming of all the spring flowers. This was also the area where we were actually able to take photos.

Back out on the front lawn Mary and Katie learned about some of the games that were played by members of the household. Here they are being shown how to play the game of lawn bowling.

I have been to Tryon Palace on a few different occasions, growing up here it is one of those field trips you can count on. This was, by far, the best visit I have ever had. The girls, whom I believed to be kind of borderline about how much they would actually get out of the visit, really enjoyed themselves and thought that it was great.

Tomorrow we are going to Beaufort, the third oldest town in NC. Beaufort is a real colonial shipping/merchant town. My ancestors settled here in the late 1600's, as whalers from Massachusetts. Today the girls got to see how the wealthy lived during the colonial period, tomorrow they will see how most everyone else lived.



Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Spring Field Trip Day 1 & 2

We made it to the beach for our Spring Field Trip safe and sound. The trip down was really nice, even though we were on day 8 or so of cold, rainy, misty weather. Before we left we made one last stop by the library on Sunday and picked up a couple of books on tape for the drive. We listened to The Indian in the Cupboard on the way down. Never have the children been so into any book on tape as they were for this one. It was quiet, with no bickering for the entire 3 1/2 hour drive. Now Mary cannot wait for us to rent the movie.

Today was our Aquarium day. Of course the children would go everyday if we could, but on this visit it will be the only day we could make it. Mary has been talking about this visit for weeks, ever since my mother told her that they had a new Cow-Nose Ray in the touch tank.

This past summer, Mary got the lucky chance to see some rays at the aquarium behind the scenes that had just been hatched. Since then she has had quite an interest in rays.

We spent a good thirty minutes hanging out at the big tank. We let Robbie loose at this point. I had a blast watching him, I think he had a blast chasing the fish.

We ended the visit with one of those wonderful homeschool moments. Mary and Emily pulled out the sketch pads and colored pencils.

Tomorrow we will leave Emily and Robbie with my step-mother, while mom and I take the older girls to Tryon Palace (the colonial governor's mansion). The little ones would be bored silly, so they get to stay here and play.



Friday, April 04, 2008

A Day Out

Since we have spent most of our Spring Break hanging around the house, I figured we should probably get out today. Especially since it wasn't raining, finally, and the temps were pretty nice. We started out with a trip to the home improvement store to buy one of these:

I've been wanting one for several years, and since this year we don't own a working lawn mower at all...I figured it would be the time to pick one up. Mary is so excited that she can mow the grass with this. We will see how long that lasts. I remember my time mowing the grass with a push mower as a kid. Of course I wasn't as fortunate as Mary, mine was an antique from my great-grandparent's estate, I had to be careful about getting splinters from the wood handles.

But, like hanging clothes, mowing the grass with a push mower is so centering. No noise, no fumes. It no longer feels like a chore, more like an experience. I can actually take the time to smell the freshly mown grass.

Even though that was our one errand that needed to be done, we were not ready to head back to the house. So, we stopped and asked some friends to come meet us for lunch at Chick-fil-a. Playtime for the kids, visiting for me. For a bonus, we scored some language CDs; Chinese, Russian and Italian. I'll add these to the German and Japanese we got a couple of years ago. Getting the Chinese language CD was so appropriate since we will be starting our China unit in a couple of weeks.

After lunch, since we were so close to the shopping center, I decided to run over and pick up the new umbrella stroller my mom had decided to buy me. The one I have had since Mary was a baby finally fell apart recently, sniff...sniff. That stroller had been everywhere with the kids. But after 8 years of constant use it gave up the ghost. While we were there we saw the pottery wheel Mary had been talking about for so long. And, since I can't buy just one child a craft project, everyone else got something. Katie a stuffed doll she could decorate with all sorts of beady, shiny things and Emily some more of her Color Wonder kits that she loves so much. For the homeschool supplies I found letter & number stamps for a really good price.

Everyone had something to occupy them for the afternoon so we came on home, where the kitchen was transformed to a studio:

I tell you, if you want something that will occupy a 3 year old quietly for a period of time the Color Wonder kits are the thing. They are magic according to Emily. And the markers don't dry out like normal markers.

And, so there ends our Spring Break. I am embarrassed to admit how little of my list was completed. But the week was a good break. Next week we are traveling to visit my family and will be finishing our Colonial America unit with some field trips. We will start back up on some of school work, but nothing too heavy.



Thursday, April 03, 2008

Visiting Week

Well, what is it the say about "Best laid plans"? My organizing week has transformed to visitor week. We have had a lot of drop in visitors over the first half of this week. Some ex-homeschooling families we haven't seen in awhile and some, I believe, to be soon-homeschooling families who are looking for a little comfort. This doesn't include the revolving door to all the neighborhood friends coming and going.

Today I should have some relief, as everyone else seems to have other plans. Now I just need to get some motivation. We are all snuffling and coughing from the pollen that is just pouring down upon us this week.

I need to finish planning for the next six weeks after we return from our field trip next week. And, my craft supplies are screaming for some organizing. It would be so nice to come back from a week away and have everything functional and ready to go. Since I don't think there is a lot of chance of the wee little people coming over to help, I better get busy while I have the chance.

My personal, wee little people are now awake, so my computer time is over.

A family of six living and learning. You might catch us outside in the mud or working on crafts. We always seem to be on the go, come on and join us.