Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mashmallow Math

Both Katie and Emily were doing their math yesterday which required a ten-square grid and counters. Since I had just purchased several bags of mini marshmallows on closeout, I decided "what the heck" and had them use marshmallows for their manipulatives. Both decided that it had to be the best math lessons ever. Katie lucked out even more in that she got to use marshmallows and chocolate chips. It is always a great feeling when I get to feel like the most awesome mom ever over schoolwork.

DH is taking a couple days off from work this week. Since he was home yesterday the girls all pushed through their schoolwork so that they could finish by lunchtime and have the afternoon with Dad. Fine with me, I didn't have to be the cheer squad and motivator for a day. The only hiccup was when I told Mary we needed to spend a few more days on her current spelling word list. She just wasn't ready to move on and had spent very little time studying the words last week. She is not a natural speller (none of us are) and we are working with her on developing study habits. Well, she went ape about how now she is "behind" because we are not starting a new list of words on Monday. DH, who thankfully was there to witness this, and I talked to her and tried to figure who she thinks she is "behind" considering she is the only 9-year-old we have. Anyway, it all comes down to the schedule. Not my schedule, but some schedule she has locked in her brain. I don't know if other 9 year olds become such schedule freaks, but it is kind of disconcerting considering our former go-with-the-flow routine.

We worked it all out, and last night Mary and I spent some extra time going through the spelling words. Which also helped give me some ideas for ways to better introduce the words to her in the future.

Speaking of Mary, her biggest wish seems to be working out in the very near future. After DH and I just about pulling our hair out about bedtime and trying to keep the younger girls out of Mary's projects, we have decided to go forward with adding a bedroom to the house for Mary. We are going to split the "formal living room", which is used as an office/den/playroom, in half by building a wall. She will have a room, although a very small room. We asked a neighbor who had worked in the home-building business until December when he was laid off to help us. He is going to build us the wall and refuses to take any money. On top of that he also has found free materials for us like the 2x4s and a door. All we have to buy is the drywall materials and insulation I want to add for noise reduction. I was telling my other neighbor about needing to buy an area rug for the floor, and she has one that she will give us.

Talk about projects just coming together. Eventually, I would like Mary to pick out her own rug and curtains, but we kind of need to wait on that if we can. She is just so excited about her own room she doesn't care too much right now.

Now I just have to finish cleaning out the room and finding homes for all the craft supplies and such. Our friend wants us to move all the furniture (and there is a lot of heavy junk) out so that the wall can just be built on the floor and tipped up.

After 3 years of pushing for another bedroom, I can't believe how well this project is finally coming together. It may end up costing us only $100!!! Which is awesome.

Time is flying, I better finish getting everything ready for today.



Thursday, March 26, 2009

New Bike!!!

Emily has been trying to use the old 16-inch bike that was Mary's and Katie's since she outgrew the 12-inch bike. But, this bike has been thoroughly used and repaired and used again. The tires are both worn down smooth, the chain is loose and the training wheels slightly bent. It was usable, but difficult for Emily. My mother in the last year or so has bought bikes for Mary and Katie for their birthdays. It was decided that Emily could really use a new bike now, and not wait for her birthday next December. She sent us the money and Emily picked out this bike to be her very own:

Purple & pink...her favorite colors. And, she is amazed by how fast she can ride this bike without feeling like she is about to fall over.

I think she is in love!

Now he is wondering where his bike is...

Thank you so much Mamaw!!



Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Busy Weekend

We are slowly getting geared up into our run-run-run Spring weekend schedules. It was a very pleasant weekend, which was good since much of our activities were outdoor things.

Saturday was the day to go and pick up our monthly Angel Food boxes. I'll just say that I am so glad that we have found this program, especially now after many kinks have been worked out and they offer so much more, like a box of fresh fruit & veggies. Katie and Emily had a soccer clinic beginning at about the same time I had to pick up. DH took them on out to the soccer fields, while Mary, Robbie and I drove the 20 minutes away to pick up the boxes.

I came back by the soccer fields so that I could watch Emily in all her cuteness out on the field. I so wish I had not left my camera sitting on the mantle. But, we will have lots of opportunities this Spring for cute mini-mite soccer photos. It also gave me a chance to go ahead and pay the rec registration for Katie and Emily. We didn't stay too long as the wind was a bit chilly out there in the open, and I had boxes of food to deliver to my neighbor.

We dropped off the neighbor's boxes of food, and then came home and unloaded our boxes. For a food hoarder like me, these boxes are like Christmas every month. Mary helped me sort it all out, re-bag what needed to be, and put away. Then we fixed lunch so that it would be ready by the time DH got back with Katie and Emily.

After lunch I escaped, by myself, to go to Aldi's for a monthly stock-up. $84 later the freezer and cabinets are groaning. So, for $70 for Angel Food and $84 Aldi's I am almost completely restocked for the next month. Although, Aldi's was out of salmon filets which means I will have to make a side trip back over sometime in the next couple of weeks. For the rest of the month we will just pick up our bits & pieces from the grocery stores in the neighborhood.

After all that running around I took the opportunity for a little nap time until DH had to go and try to help our neighbor unstick her van from the mudhole she acciddentally backed into. I stayed home, but could watch all the fun from the house. It was great enjoyment watching half the nieghborhood men out their trying all their "pull a car out of mud" skills. I really think they had a blast. Finally someone found a 30 foot of huge chain and hooked it up to another's big old hemi-truck, and yanked it right out.

With all the excitement over, DH had to run Mary across town to a sleepover wth a teammate. The others were tired of playing outside, so we had early bath & dinner and then a movie, they choose "Sword in the Stone" for the evening.

Sunday started early with a 7:30 call from Mary asking us to bring her white jersey to the game since she forgot to pack that one. Since we were up we went ahead and got started with our day. As soon as he could DH went to Lowes to pick up more soil and compost, then borrowed the neighbor's tiller so he could turn over the new garden bed we are going to have this summer. I got the rest outside with me so we could plant the lettuce, spinach, etc. in the existing raised bed.

After a quick lunch, DH headed over to the soccer fields to meet Mary for her first game of the day. He took Emily with him, while Robbie napped and Katie was playing at a friend's house. As soon as Robbie started stirring I got him up so Katie, Robbie and I could watch Mary's second game. Thankfully, the wind had died down since Saturday and it was very pleasant at the fields.

Needless to say, by the time we all got home at 6 on Sunday we were exhausted from our weekend. We baked one of our "emergency" frozen pizzas for dinner and got everyone focused on bedtime. While waiting for Amazing Race to start I worked on the lesson planning for this week. The big girls and I watched Amazing Race, and as soon as it was over we all headed for bed. No one even had the energy to dawdle.

I was glad that the week has started again ;)



Thursday, March 19, 2009

Picture Catch-Up Post

It is time again to clean off the camera. So here are some pictures from the last week.

Last Wednesday we visited the Marble Museum again. This time we managed to pick a day with very few school groups. It gave us the opportunity to really enjoy some areas that are normally crowded.

Playing Pirate was a big hit.

Emily and Katie really enjoyed playing with the animals. Katie got the idea of creating a 3-D playmat to use with her plastic animals from this activity.

Mary has always loved to build with wooden blocks. These super-huge ones in the preschool area are just too much fun for her to pass up.

DH took the girls back to the museum on Tuesday while he was off work. This time they spent a bit of time upstairs. Mary tried out her hand at painting faces. Katie was a cheetah and Emily chose to be a blue butterfly.
Mary did a really good job painting her sisters faces.

I can tell you that life with Robbie is never dull. He is such a funny fun kid to have around. After cleaning off the end table in the family room he claimed it for his very own desk, grabbing one of Mary's Mandala books and his sunglasses (because that light sure is bright).

Such a serious face.... But he can't hold it for long.
Forgive the messy face, I was just getting ready to dunk him in the bathtub after a hard day of playing.

Today was art day, and boy was glad the weather was so nice so I could send them out to the deck to work on their project, a puppet theater.
Working together on puppets.

The finished theater, with fairy tale stories painted along the bottom.

It has been a creatively, fun week around here...perfect!



Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"It isn't your turn to argue with me"

Yes, that phrase came out of my mouth this morning. While I was finishing up school this morning with Katie, and allowing Mary to lay like a lump on the sofa until she "woke" up, Mary wanted to argue with me about her math assignment for the day. I found myself turning to her with a smile, and an unusual feeling of calmness before I uttered these sweet, sweet words "I still have three hours before I am doing school with you, therefore it isn't your turn to argue with me." I don't know if it was the words or my calmness, but it shut her up quick. What made it even sweeter was at 2:00 Mary pulled out her math assignment and started working on it without a word to me.

In my between time today I was able to finally sort through the bunch of books we have used recently and left piled up here and there in the family room. Wow! What an improvement. I repurposed a small bookshelf and now each of the girls have their own shelf with their current school books & notebooks. Beside the shelf, I have put a plastic storage box I recently emptied and is now home to all our library books. My heart is going pitter-patter to have everything in one space. Did you know we actually have a coffee table?

Now that we have a schedule, we have everything organized and the girls are focused I am actually starting to feel like a homeschooling mom again. We have even been adding people/events to our timeline.

Emily just told me that her art project for tomorrow's art day is to make her own puppet theater. And, she means business; her list includes a box (with an open top), paper bags for the puppets and yarn. Goody... that won't be stressful for anyone.



Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I see the Sun!!!

What a wonderful sight after four days and three inches of rain. Fifty degrees feels really cold after almost a week of 80. We've had to run the pump in the crawl space twice and DH spent his day off yesterday digging a new drainage line down the side yard. Of course he was able to turn it into an educational experience with measuring and adding for Mary & Katie.

With DH being home for almost a week, he and I were able to have some "Where are we going in our homeschool?" type discussions. Which is always good. We were also able to have some discussions with Mary, trying to pump up her lagging motivation. In the end, with input from Mary we have created a new schedule to try out. And, the daily whiteboard lists are back.

The new schedule goes something like this:

8-9 time with Robbie & Emily
9 Katie wakes up, has breakfast
9:30 Mary wakes up, breakfast
9:30 -10 school with Emily
10-11:30 school with Katie, Mary plays with Robbie & Emily
11:30-1:00 break/lunch time/housework
1-3:30 Robbie nap time
1-2 Quiet time
2-3 Project time/Mary begins school work
3-5 Free Play
5-6 Mary school work/fix dinner/Quiet play & clean up for Katie, Emily & Robbie
6:30-7:30 Dinner/family time
7:30-8:30 Mary School with dad/Katie quiet activity/Emily & Robbie bath and bedtime
9 Emily to bed
9-10 reading/quiet activity with Mary & Katie
10 Katie bedtime
10-10:30 Mary independent reading/drawing activity
10:30 Mary bedtime

Hopefully, this will help tackle a couple of problems we have been confronting. First Robbie will be entertained and kept out of trouble, instead of trying to be right in the middle and very disruptive. Secondly, each of the girls gets their very own one-on-one time with me. No more competing for attention. Third, Mary is such a night owl, I swear her mind doesn't wake up before noon, no matter what time she wakes up. Her focus & retention after 5pm is amazing. Before noon it seems like she cannot even figure out how to add numbers.

Mary is actually looking forward to helping teach Emily. She will gladly sit down and help Emily with how to write letters and numbers, and read to the little ones. DH will also be more involved in helping Mary with whatever her current troublespot is for the week, and will review with Katie each evening. I don't mind that the 'school' day will seem to last for 12 hours, there is a huge break in the middle of the day for running errands, relaxing or just catching up. Right when my energy levels are waning and I need some brain rest anyway.

Today is DH's last day off from work. Mary went ahead and did today's work, in addition to yesterday's last night so she could spend most of the day with him. Tonight we will just have to review her spelling words and she will read. This afternoon DH took them to the museum for an outing while I got to stay home with Robbie and veg while he napped. I could become very spoiled.

Even with the rain, it still seems like it was a very productive weekend for us.



Sunday, March 15, 2009

And the weather changes

Being March, I knew the little Spring weather we had would not last. So, back to Winter for a few more days with rain and 40 degrees. Good days to curl up inside and veg. Of course the weather waited to change for DH to take a few days off from work. But, it is nice to have him around.

I took advantage of him being home on Friday to go shopping at the school supply store. I needed to find a math workbook for Mary. Horizon's just isn't doing it for her anymore and I'm not sure what curriculum we may switch to at this time. I was just looking for something to finish off this year and keep her moving forward on her multiplication and division. I picked up a Spectrum workbook, because I have always been happy with them in the past. I think it will fill the hole nicely until I figure which direction we want to go.

Being alone gave me ample time to browse and pick up a few more little workbooks for all the girls. Emily has finished up all her little pre-K number workbooks and wanted another 'math' book. She also loves mazes, so she got another maze book. Since I test in late summer, I decided to go ahead and get some test prep books for Mary and Katie so we can start reviewing test-taking skills here and there.

On the way home I made a library stop to load us up on some fun books for the rainy weekend.

Mary has had one of her normal go-go-go weekends. A birthday party Friday night and then her soccer team had to play at halftime of the local semi-pro soccer game Saturday night. She is supposed to have a soccer game this afternoon, but I am thinking that the rain may postpone that game. Everything is a mud pit after the last two days.

I'm hoping for a quiet day and may be able to visit my SIL who is at my MIL's recuperating from surgery this week. I haven't been able to see her yet, and woul really like time to visit. Robbie has come down with some stomach bug this weekend and does have a fever, so DH and I will have to take turns going over to visit her. SIL does not need to be exposed to any more germs.

Well, my five minutes of computer time is up. The natives are getting restless again.



Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Joyful Weather

As always with the first taste of Spring we find ourselves outside, constantly! Every evening the children walk in the door covered from head to toe in wonderful dirt, chalk powder and sticky bubble soap residue. My filthy kids are actually making my heart sing during a time when my heart aches on so many other levels. Their innocent, free play is a wonder to behold.

After being cooped up all winter long the children are free to be loud and to run, wherever. The bickering of late winter disappears as play together or apart, as the heart leads them. And, when it is time for bed they are tired and worn out...though still thinking of new plans for tomorrow.

Soccer games started on Sunday for Mary. Their team played the toughest team in the league to a 3-3 tie. Mary scored a team-high 2 goals in the game. The most she has ever scored in one game. Shortly Katie and Emily will be playing on Saturdays too. Just call us weekend soccer warriors.

Katie went to her first Daisy Scouts meeting last night, and really enjoyed it. She was pretty nervous since she didn't know anyone, but soon settled in. Mary also had her Brownie meeting last night and is loving Girl Scouts so far. It has been nice having this shortened introduction for both of them. In the fall they will be assigned to permanent troops, one of which I will be the leader for.

And, today we are going to try again to go to the Marble Museum. Hopefully, there won't be quite so many school groups in the middle of the week.



Thursday, March 05, 2009

I'm on a roll

Three days in a row. I really am trying to be more devoted this poor ignored blog and more cognizant of everything we are doing on a daily basis.

We had a very fun Wednesday! We started off by making some homemade play dough to hopefully occupy the little ones for a while. I gave Mary and Katie the task of actually making the dough, and told them to double the batch. Which led us to reviewing how to double measurements. After the first batch was made we ran into our first problem when we realized that we were out of food coloring, except for yellow. And, according to Mary play dough isn't any fun unless it is colored.

We got creative and found some old packets of kool-aid from last summer. First we tried adding a little of it dry, which made a really dark pink but was hard to mix in. Another ball we added some kool-aid after it had been mixed with water and then topped off with a bit more flour. And, the third ball we just used the yellow food coloring. They had so much fun they decided to make another double batch and this time the liquid was all kool-aid. It was a blast and the red is slowly wearing off our hands.

After all that work Katie and Mary had to play with it along with Emily & Robbie, whch gave me a chance to clean the kitchen and transform it into our science lab for the day.

Katie has been wanting to grow crystals for awhile. I generally do crystal growing experiments in the summer to get the full sun to help, but we are going to try to grow some sugar crystals in our window. The recipe is easy to follow and allowed for us to talk about mixing and dissolving.

Mary and I had no 'real' recipe to follow and worked on determining how to make a 30% salt water mixture. Then left it on the stove to boil. Using plastic wrap we collected some of the steam and tasted it to show that the steam escaping had a very low salt content. In about 15 minutes at a boil we were left with a salt sludge at the bottom of the pot. I really want to do this experiment again the next time we go to the beach to visit my family and use actual sea water from the Atlantic Ocean.

By the time we finished up our lab work it was time to clean the kitchen again and make lunch so Emily could get ready for my friend to pick her up and take her to dance class. While making lunch Mary and Katie used YouTube to listen to their favorite dance songs. They asked me for a song and I suggested "We Didn't Start The Fire" by Billy Joel because it has been on my mind a lot recently. I think it would make an awesome tool for studying the late 20th century, but unfortunately my kids are too young right now for that unit study. Anyway, they enjoyed the song, even if they didn't understand it. Later that afternoon I got on YouTube and found this guy who had added events from 1990-2007. He can't sing, but it was very cool to think back to the important events over the last couple of decades.

During quiet time, the big girls played outside, since they could finally be out there without freezing. I was able to sit down and get some miscellaneous work done. Mary's soccer practice was cancelled, again, as the fields are still trying to dry out from two days of rain followed by 3 inches of snow. Another night with another sit-down family meal. Gotta love it. We did math with Mary and Katie after dinner clean-up. DH started another fire and the kids picked out a movie to watch with him, while I got a little me time.

And, today the temps will be inching into the 60s!!! Goodbye snow!



Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Yesterday we finished up Katie's theater class she has been going to every Tuesday afternoon since the beginning of January. Katie had such a wonderful time participating in this class I promised that next fall I would do my best to register her for both sessions. This session the class worked on two short plays based on a couple Anansi stories. Katie had four lines and was really worried about whether she would remember them or not. She worked on it and worked on it with whomever she could corner over the last five weeks.

She did a great job and did not miss one beat. In fact she was one of the few without a script in her hand, but that was mainly due to the fact that some time this weekend she misplaced her script and had not been able to find it. But, no matter, she did not need it.

While uploading pictures of Katie's play I found a picture of a daffodil that Mary had taken during one of our Spring-like days earlier in February, just before a picture of the snowman from this latest snow. That bright yellow was very nice to see after the last couple of days of white snow and brown mud.

We finished off the day with a family favorite of spaghetti and bath time. DH started the fire for us and we enjoyed hanging out in front of it and watching the Jazz trumpeter Chris Botti perform with the Boston Pops on PBS.

Nothing like drying off in front of a warm fire after a warm bubble bath.

Now I am off to study desalination...as Mary is interested in how one harvest salt & drinkable water from the oceans.



Tuesday, March 03, 2009

So what has been going on?

This morning we are defrosting after a late season snowfall moved through yesterday. The kids spent most of yesterday running in and out of the house. Which meant I spent most of the day peeling off layers of wet clothes and running the washer & dryer. Hopefully, for us, this was Winter's last gasp and the warmer temperatures we are expecting by the weekend will hold. I am ready for a little trail walking and to get our garden started for this year.

This winter we again fell into our unschooling style, and I just don't see us changing it up anytime soon. It has been wonderful watching everyone take off in their own personal directions. And, we have been very regular about making it to museums for day trips.

Last week Katie gave us a presentation about plants and photosynthesis, something she has been studying on the 'sly'. I am learning that Katie loves to present whatever she learns. That seems to be her reason for wanting to learn. This whole winter she participated in a community theater class that ends tonight in a play for the families. She has worked on her lines for six weeks, jumping in her reading skills and improving her memory to levels I probably would not have been able to coerce. Last night she, Mary and I designed and worked together to make her dog ears using materials we had around the house. Otherwise this winter, she has spent many happy hours working through the various computer programs we have or curled up on the sofa with a book.

Mary has discovered writing on the computer for her list making and such. Both the girls are using the whiteboards to make their own daily lists or surveys that we are constantly being subjected too. The other night Mary was wondering around the house writing "spells" for turning Katie into different animals or imaginary creatures. She loves having her desk under her bed and is spending quite a bit of time back there working on art projects or making objects for the imaginary games she and her friends have going. While she has been at it, I discovered that she is working on her multiplication and division skills, by herself.

I can't leave Emily out anymore as she has been busy working on her alphabet and sounds, along with using the computer "independently". Katie showed her the Starfall site and Emily has been enjoying that a lot. The magnetic letters have been pulled back out, and I find Emily with either Katie or Mary at the frig making words. At Christmas, Emily got her first Webkinz account and has improved a lot on her counting an simple addition skills just from using that. Art days, hands down, are her favorite days. She loves being able to pull out the paints and just "play".

Robbie has moved into the "I do it myself" phase, which takes all sorts of patience on my end. He has taken this to a whole new level for us, by even insisting that he change his own pull-up and clean himself. I hear "Mommy, No!" a lot during the day from him. He loves to crawl into my lap for reading time and will bring me piles of books he wants to read. His favorite is a Richard Scarry Big Book of Cars & Trucks that my mom found at a used bookstore for a couple of dollars. He goes to sleep at night reading this book and wakes up in the morning reading it. I'm thinking of trying to find the Richard Scarry Busytown VCR tape Mary had and see if it still works. He might enjoy watching that.

I find that our days are very, very busy right now. And soccer is just getting started...


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.