Sunday, December 22, 2013

Winter Solstice Walk

 Saturday, Dec. 21st was winter solstice. The sun rose at 10:14 a.m. and set at 3:42 p.m. The good news, however, is that from here on out we will continue to gain more light every day until we are at the other extreme of only a couple hours of darkness in the summer! haha. I don't know if I'll ever get used to this crazy place we live in. But anyway, I was dying to get out of the house and just be out in nature a little bit. I really need that every so often, and thank goodness Alaska has a lot to offer in the outdoors department. It was finally not in the negative temps so we bundled up and went down the road to take a walk on the Campbell Park trail. It was a nice low-key family outing and we had fun playing with our new camera. :) Our other camera died on us in July, so we've been waiting to get a nice one again. It was supposed to be for Christmas, but my husband has the patience of a 1 year old when it comes to gifts :). I'm SO glad to not just have lousy phone pictures to document our lives. Hopefully it'll make this ol' blog a little more pleasant to look at.
Kelsey was being pulled in this cool sled type seat. It has a buckle and everything. The girls actually took turns riding in it, sometimes two at a time as you will see later.

Cute little munchkin Madison

Yes, the snow was that deep off the trail :) cute cheeser face

The Boys

Not the same day, but a cute shot of Bryn playing out in the snow this week. We certainly never have a shortage of snow!

A Lesson on Honesty

A couple weeks ago I went to the grocery store with the kids. It was nearing dinner time, and we were rushing trying to get home as soon as we could, to get dinner going. But I did need to get a few things, so we had to make a quick trip. The kids were excited by all the Christmas stuff displayed and couldn't resist picking up lots of things and begging and pleading to buy them. I was getting annoyed at their whining and persistence, when I just wanted to get what was on the list and go home. Brynlee, in particular, was having a rough time. After scolding them for their behavior and probably threatening something super scary like taking toys away, they stopped asking for things and we got out of the store.

It wasn't until a little while after we got home that I saw Brynlee trying to hide something from me in her hand. I looked again before she could hide it and recognized it as one of the reindeer pens she really wanted at the store. The one I told her "No, we will not buy that, put it back!"

There it was, in our house, and I knew I didn't pay for it. Shame and guilt took over Brynlee (and probably fear, too) and she took off running to her room. I followed her up there, grateful for a chance to talk away from the other kids. I tried to help her understand that she had just stolen this from the store, and why that was so bad.

When daddy came home that night, Brynlee and I went back to the store together with her piggy bank. The plan was for her to explain what she had done all by herself, apologize, and then make it right. All part of the repentance process. But her face flushed so red when it came time for her to say it, and I knew she was about to cry. Not wanting to hold up the line for too long, I helped her explain what had happened. She did say she was sorry all on her own and that she wouldn't do it again. We then paid for the reindeer pen and came back home, hopefully a little wiser and cleaner in spirit than when we were before. :)

Brynlee seems to struggle with being sneaky and dishonest more than any of the other kids, so hopefully this was a good lesson that will stick with her.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"Oh The Weather Outside Is Frightful..."

We got seriously dumped on this past weekend. About a foot and a half of snow. Which means more fun!! It looks beautiful and is fun to play in, we just really wish it would warm up just a little so we could enjoy it even more.

 Sledding on Saturday, before the ward Christmas party

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Madison's 3rd Birthday!!

On Thursday, December 5th, Madison Lynn turned 3 years old!! I'm not quite sure how, so very quickly, she went from this:

to this:

We were still in Texas for the big day, which means we really missed Daddy on this day. But we still managed to celebrate what a great girl she is. I told her about when she was born and how she just came out screaming and didn't stop for a long time. See, here she was getting weighed and was still just so mad! haha. She has brought it up several times since and loves to talk about how she was born in Illinois and was screaming in my tummy :). Something like that.

We started off the morning with a bubble bath. She loves playing in the bath tub with her sisters :).

Then we went to the Lufkin zoo! Grandpa was even nice enough to leave work for a little while and join us. We had a lot of fun, even though it was pretty chilly!
 Except they got a little nervous (especially Tyler) when they saw this sign about how real live alligators live in the lake where you have to park your car!

I don't have any pictures of her opening presents, because I was recording it, but she got a few fun things and was especially happy about the double stroller from Grandma. She has always been the most nurturing little mother to all her "babies" and I'm sure the stroller will get a lot of use at our house!
That night we had pizza, then cake and ice cream. The only thing she cared about was that everything was PINK! Pink balloons, pink frosting, pink wrapping paper, etc. Then we went to aunt Sarah's Christmas concert that night at the high school.

Oh we sure love this sweet girl. She is so beautiful inside and out and we couldn't imagine our family without her. Happy happy birthday Madi cakes!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Thanksgiving in Lufkin

The kids and I left on Monday the 25th, and flew to Seattle. We spent the night there in a hotel, and went back the next morning for another 4 hour flight to Houston. My mom picked us up and we were so happy to see her!! We had missed all the family festivities for Mon. and Tues., but we got there that night and we were overjoyed to be with everyone. We had a spectacular time. I threw a little slideshow together of some of my favorite pictures HERE, and my awesome SIL Kerri made a movie of all the video recordings she was so good at capturing while we were together. HERE. Here's a few highlights that I want to remember about this trip:

Hardly seeing my kids because they were so busy playing and having a blast with their cousins
Singing together around the piano--always a favorite tradition when we're together
The Thanksgiving program we did at the nursing home (my dad is the Director there at Southland, so we pretty much do some kind of program any time we're home :) ). Tyler played a piano solo for his first time ever in front of a group of people and played it perfectly. The grandkids all recited the poem, "Good morning Mr. Turkey" and it was so cute.
Staying up late every night talking and playing games with all the adults
The oven pooping out on us on Thanksgiving day--BEFORE we baked the 4 big pans of rolls my mom made. We tried to make them over the fire (some of us tried outside, some tried inside) and it was so funny. We finally used store-bought french bread and called it good. 
Having pie and ice cream around the fire that night and talking about what we were grateful for
Lots of fires! 
Seeing my cousin Charlotte and her adorable family! It was so fun to be with them
Sunshine and warm weather (most of the time)
Seeing my dad wrestle and play with my kids. I hope they know what a great Grandpa they have.
Just being together and nurturing those important family relationships

We really, really missed Kenny. I also swore that was the last time I'd travel by myself. But it's hard because if we're going to spend so much money on plane tickets to go see everyone, we want it to be long enough to make it worth it. Of course Kenny could never take off enough work to do that, so I'm sure it'll happen again. But I hate it every time. This time, coming home was a nightmare. We had heard there would be freezing rain in Dallas, so we made sure to check our flight status twice that morning, including RIGHT before we left. But with a 4 hour drive there, it must have changed from on time, to cancelled. By the time we got to the airport, the kids had already had it. They had been sitting in a car for 4 hours, no potty breaks or anything. But I didn't realize how long the line would be, so we got in line just to print off our boarding passes...over an hour later they were going crazy, we ALL needed to pee really bad, and we had only moved a few feet. Literally. Then, as a very direct answer to prayer, this random lady came up to me and asked if she could stand there by our luggage, so I could take my kids to the bathroom without losing our spot in line. I wanted to cry. I told her she was a saint and thanked her. Then we ran clear across the airport to find the bathrooms. I found the TVs and figured out my flight was cancelled, called Kenny, and he rescheduled our flight. I called my mom, dying from embarrassment that she had to turn around come back for us. It was dark now, the roads were really icy, and we still had a long night ahead of us. So we waited another hour + for her to turn around and come back for us. We got home around midnight and went straight to bed. The next day my dad drove us down to Houston (no ice there) so we could fly home. We had two long 4 hour flights, with a layover in between. Kelsey did not sleep AT ALL the whole second flight...which was the middle of the night. We landed at 12:30, but 3:30 to us since we were still on TX time. I had restless leg syndrome really bad, and Tyler got a bloody nose because he always does whenever it's dry. But of course we all survived. We didn't go to church the next morning, but we did sleep a lot. We were all so exhausted. It was good to be home and back as a family under one roof. Real life always sets in very quickly, but it's still good to be back to our normal, daily grind.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sister Love

Sunday, November 17th: I was making dinner and Kelsey kept asking me to read her books. I did stop several times to read, but then I said that I couldn't, or dinner would never get done. Madison walks in the kitchen and says, "Here Kels, I'll read it to ya! Sit on my lap". So they sat right there on the kitchen floor, with Madison's arms wrapped around Kelsey, barely able to reach to turn the pages. It was the sweetest thing. This happened to be one of the books she has memorized (not very many words) and it was so tender. I just love sibling relationships...when they're kind like this :). 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Trip, A Rant, A Funny

A Trip: Somehow this last week we ended up using our miles to buy tickets to go down to my parents' house for Thanksgiving. I think I win the worst wife of the year award because we're going without Kenny. I know, who just does that? Well I guess we do. We went back and forth on it a lot. But in the end we ended up deciding that together. I really, really wish he would come. But he doesn't think it's worth it for the amount of days he would be there, the expense of the plane tickets on those days, and he refuses to take off work. So there you have it. Tomorrow I will fly with all the kids by myself. We will fly to Seattle, arriving around 11:30 p.m. (it will be like 12:30 to us) and we take a shuttle to our hotel. The next morning we'll take the shuttle back to the airport and get on another plane to Houston, Texas. Then drive 2 hours to Lufkin, and be reunited with EVERYONE in my family (except Tim on a mission). I am beyond excited to be all together. The kids are ecstatic too. But please, please pray for me in this travelling adventure.

A Rant: Why is it that whenever anyone announces they are pregnant, the #1 response is "You are going to be SUCH A CUTE MOM?!" What does that even mean?? Is the image of motherhood the only thing that matters anymore? Does it mean she won't get as fat as some other women during her pregnancy? Does it mean children are such an adorable accessory that she wears well? I mean, it's not like a dress you try on and look cute in. It bugs me to death. Rant over.

A Funny: The other night I made some white chicken chili. I didn't use canned beans, and I'm not quite an expert at using regular bag of beans, and they were still crunchy. It was gross. So I served some pumpkin choc. chip bread (that was given to us) with dinner, instead of waiting for dessert because I felt so bad about the dinner fail. While the kids were all picking the beans out of their soup Brynlee says, "But Mom, you're supposed to know what you're doing!" Tyler responds with, "Well ya know Bryn, she is only 26!"

One more funny just because...all my kids say "I amn't", instead of, I'm not. This incorrect use of the contraction drives me crazy and no matter how many times I correct them (daily!) they just don't get it. So I amn't going to worry about it anymore :)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

"Playgroup Garage"

A few weeks ago we went to an open house at one of our new neighbors' house. We didn't feel any deep connection with anybody, but we did get a great idea...the lady runs a small daycare out of her home, and so she transformed her garage into a really cool playroom. There's was way cool. And while I knew we weren't going to invest the money to make it as cool as theirs, both Kenny and I came home thinking, "that's what we need to do!" So we set to work. We found some of this flooring at a couple different places, but Sam's was the cheapest. I didn't have a membership there, but my mom did so we sort of worked the system. Along with that Kenny built 6 shelves in there that we needed to for toys, storage, etc. The other wall of the garage is almost completely lined with shelves too. Apparently we still have a lot of crap. We also have our piano out there in the garage, because there's no room for it in the house. So it helped to turn this into a playroom, or a "playgroup garage" as the kids call it, so that it was more inviting when we do play the piano. So far I have zero complaints about our new space. It is heated, it keeps ALL the toys out of the house which significantly reduces the clutter, they can be as noisy as they want, it's big enough to run around like crazy and get some energy out in these long winters, and it keeps them out from under my feet! It's been a huge blessing to have this new space. It's like an additional 400 square feet! :) Of course, I don't enjoy having to plan 20-30 minutes in advance to start the car outside so we can open the frozen doors and scrape ice/snow, etc. But for as much time as we're in the car compared to at home, this definitely outweighed that.

Standing at the door looking into the garage. Those metal things at the back (in between the kennel and ottoman) are to take to the dump. Obviously it doesn't look perfect yet and there's still work to do out here (like painting??) but the kids sure don't care.

A panoramic view standing over by Jake's kennel

They are out there all the time and it's really fabulous. We've had family soccer games, which is Ty's favorite. 

While I'm here, I'll quickly re-cap last week.
Tuesday I was in charge of Young Women's in Excellence. I got called and when I had my first meeting with the pres. she says, so I've put you in charge of's in about 2 1/2 weeks. Awesome. So anyway Kenny had to work late, which meant Tyler missed soccer and they all came with me to the church. They liked running around in the gym while I took care of what I needed to. Kenny came and got them around 7:40 and went home and put them to bed. I had bribed them with ice cream if they were really good and stayed in the gym the whole time. Except for Kelsey, they did do just that. So the next day after we went to the library, we stopped and got some ice cream sundaes as a little reward. They really are good kids. :)
Wed. Kenny had meetings for church at night. 
Thursday we went to our cousin David's preschool where they had a big activity for lots of kids. A lot of high schoolers were in charge of it and the kids were glad to get out of the house. That evening Ty had soccer. Friday Kenny had work off! So we mostly just worked on the garage turning it into what it is now. We also went swimming as a family at the YMCA. I don't know if I mentioned, but we got a 6 month family membership there to help get through the winter. We walk to it because it's so super close and I like that. Madison is still very scared of the water and it took a long time to coax her in. She's getting more brave, but hasn't naturally taken to the water like her siblings.
Saturday I took Tyler and Brynlee on a "field trip" since we didn't do it Fri. We went to the museum again, but this time saw a film in their Planetarium. It was called Earth, Moon, and Sun. We ended up getting a private showing because we were the only ones in there :). Wish we would have brought the whole family! Right when we got back Kenny went to a meeting because there was a member of the 70 visiting. I think it's so cool he got to go. I got some more work done on the house and that night I finished off the week with an hour and a half of bikram hot yoga. One of my top 5 favorite things in the world. I feel so amazing after I'm done.

We've been focusing on thanskgiving lately with school stuff. This is what our table often looks like, and they're happily crafting away. I think I ended up throwing away these crafts because they just sat around and never finished and it drove me crazy. Our counters are always so cluttered and I try so hard to keep up with it, but obviously still haven't gotten there.

Just a cute shot when Kelsey climbed up and hugged Tyler, then asked him to read to her. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

How We Homeschool

I'm really not even sure I should be writing a post about this, because it changes a lot. So I guess I'll just write a few main theories or principles I believe in that we use to try and guide our day to day learning.

1. I think that young children learn best through work and play
2. I think they have such a natural love of learning and curiosity about everything! My job is to try not to ruin that. For the most part, I am a believer in the quote, "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." -W. B. Yeats
3. I believe in real-life learning as the most effective method, rather than strictly textbooks and workbooks
4. I think it's easiest to teach what they are interested in and passionate about. They are more excited about it, and retain more of the information. We try to do somewhat of a student-led approach, as much as possible.
5. Every day there are many "learning opportunities" that come up, and we should try to take advantage of them. I'm not just talking about shoving facts in their little brains, but learning proper conduct and manners, right from wrong, empathy for others, etc.

When I first started homeschooling, I had no idea what I was doing (heck, I still don't). But I didn't trust myself yet so I just bought a total and completely done curriculum with the schedule for every subject, every day that we could live by. (It was Sonlight, for those interested. It's a literature-based, Christian curriculum, and I think they do a good job.) And we did live by that schedule, for many months. It wasn't until about halfway through the year I started to think about things for myself. I didn't want to just take the public school system and bring it into my own home. We could do better than that. I had the advantage of more time with each student, and the ability to cater it as I saw fit. I started reading a lot of different books on different methods and deciding what I liked the best for our own family, and my children individually.

The first thing we do in the morning is "family school". This is when everyone is in the room together. We work on memorizing either a poem or a scripture. We say the pledge of allegiance. We sometimes work on a primary song, and we discuss some gospel-related topic. Some weeks we talk about a specific virtue or character trait, with supporting scriptures/stories/videos. We might read from the Friend magazine. Or focus on the stories and meaning behind upcoming holidays. Sometimes I will just think of a person in history I admire that is a good example of something and we'll learn about them through books and movies (youtube is a great resource). It isn't by schedule, it's just whatever I feel like teaching them about, or if there's something specific we need to work on in our home.

There are certain things I require to be done every day, for Tyler. I'm a little more relaxed with Bryn since she's still in preschool. But Tyler is required to read 25-30 minutes a day, do copy work (he copies down a verse in the scriptures, or a short poem) or journaling to work on handwriting, and also math. Unfortunately with math I think especially with the basics you just have to do it over and over again. (I use the Math Mammoth curriculum)We do play games that involve math (with cards, etc.) because it's funner that way, and mostly for Bryn. But Tyler doesn't mind it, in fact I think he is a "workbook kid" and enjoys accomplishing each page, and turning back to see how much he has already done. They don't bother him a bit. So I guess the "three R's" are what I require each day. Oh and piano, Tyler has to practice the piano every day.

Brynlee does have some workbooks that we like. I use the Code series, and some Kumon workbooks. It just gives her extra practice in learning to write her letters and numbers. Though a lot of days we just have a small dry-erase board or paper and do notes to grandma, etc.

I also bought an art curriculum. Not because Tyler doesn't already spend hours (literally) a day on artwork, but because I thought it would be good to receive actual instruction so he can continue to improve. It's a DVD-based instruction, and he really loves it and Bryn does it with him too. (It's called Atelier, for those interested.)

For everything else we just kind of wing it. We learn about whatever the kids are interested in. Tyler loves science a lot, so while I don't have a curriculum, we do it a lot and kind of go off of his current interests. Usually bugs and animals :). Recently Tyler has wanted to learn to type. So we've started working on typing with his fingers on the right keys.

We read and read and read A LOT. Every single one of our kids is really, really into books and I love that. We keep a lot of the best ones in the front room, but of course there's another bookshelf full upstairs and they are constantly all over the house. But I never mind because it means that they are in them a lot, and that makes me so happy. We go to the library every week. They can each pick out their own books, and Tyler heads straight to the juvenile non-fiction section to get his animal fact books :). They like to listen to book-on-CD at night to fall asleep. And we like to read novels as a family. The latest one we tried reading was Little Britches by Ralph Moody. But I think it was a little premature, so we didn't finish it. Well I finished it and loved it. It's a great classic, but Ty and Kenny were the only ones who enjoyed it, the little girls just ran around like crazy being noisy. So we switched to Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl and they loved that. Anyway, the point is we read a lot, and I think that's really important.

So that's kind of what we do, in a nutshell. I know this sounds very loosy-goosy and like it's "not enough" to people who are only used to the public school way of thinking. And it took me a while to come to this too. My sister Steph and I often talk about how there's a right time for everyone to learn different things. You have to be at a certain place in your life where you're ready and open to a new way of thinking. For example, I used to think people that did home births and water births were so crazy, they were foolish for putting themselves at risk, and I just couldn't see past anything but the hospital. But now I've had 4 kids, 2 of them naturally. With each birth I think I read more and am a little more open to other ideas. Then with my last one, Kelsey, I had her at a birthing center in a tub. And I think a home birth sounds like a really nice option! Total 180 from my thinking a few years before that. We all learn and grow line upon line and as we're ready for more, or new ways of thinking. My journey with homeschooling as evolved the same way. So if you're not into this and think I'm a total nut-job and ruining my children, don't worry, I'm not offended. But if you have any respectful questions, I would be happy to answer them :).

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Not Much To Say

It's been a pretty regular week at our house. My brain seems to be too tired to think of much that went on, so thankfully I have a few phone pictures to jog my memory. One day I saw this cool idea on a blog to use food coloring in shaving cream, then let kids paint with it. I decided to take this to the bath tub and they had a blast. It started out nice and clean with paint brushes...

But of course it ended up ditching the brushes and using their hands and feet. Yes, feet. So it was pretty much everywhere, but I didn't mind because it was contained and easy clean up. Tyler was out by then because he's not such a fan of being messy. Why weren't all my kids born like that??

Speaking of Tyler, he's quite into doing everything himself, and especially wants to help in the kitchen. He makes his own sandwiches every single day, and sometimes his sisters' too. His favorite thing to make is smoothies for us. He does it all, gets out the blender, sets it up, gets all the stuff out and makes it by himself. I'm pretty sure I wasn't doing that when I was 6. It's nice to have an independent and helpful son around.

After much deliberation we've decided to turn our garage into a big play room. (It's heated.) That meant I used my mom's Sam's Club membership to buy this awesome flooring for the garage. We had to go and pick it up, and I had 5 kids with me. 3 girls already in the cart and they roll out this huge flat cart full of the flooring. After sitting there for another 10 minutes waiting for an employee to help us out to the car, I realized Tyler could probably do it. And he did. Without running into any customers, parked cars, or anything. I'm not trying to make this post all about Tyler but seriously, what would I do without this kid?

Kelsey has picked up on the "arts and crafts" bug that my oldest 2 have. Except she's a 1 yr. old, so it doesn't work so well. She prefers to draw on herself mostly. Or books, the floor, the table, the wall, etc. We really have to keep an eye on any stray pens, pencils, and especially markers around the house.

We've had quite the trouble with her and sleeping lately. I mentioned a while back how we couldn't find the screws for the bunk bed. Well they eventually turned up so then we set it up in the room and no longer had room for the crib, the bunk bed, the dresser, and toys. So we decided to put her in the bunk bed with the other two girls. (It's a twin on top and full on the bottom). So we've been having lots of fun putting her to bed every nap and every night. I'm lying--it's been anything but fun. It's time consuming, and draining, and I quickly lose my patience with the whole situation. She gets out a lot, plays with toys, climbs up to the top bunk and then can't get back down, keeps everyone else up, etc. But now we've moved all the toys out to the garage, so we have room for her crib again! So we set up her crib again today and we'll see how it goes.

We've had an unusually warm October, and this last week winter finally caught up to us. It's now freezing again, and snowing as usual. So we made sugar cookies for the first snow fall. (Technically, the first one was back in September, but it didn't stick, and we didn't have a house or a way to make sugar cookies, so this is the real deal.)

Speaking of freezing, it was freezing rain last night and the roads were extremely icy. We've put off putting our snow tires back on, and now we really need them. I got up at 5:30 this morning to finish preparing my lesson. Kenny had a EQ Pres. Mtg. here at our house at 7 a.m. I was upstairs helping write Tyler's talk for him as he dictated it, and getting the girls ready for church. Then around 8 we got notified that church was cancelled because of the horrible roads. It was sort of a huge relief. Kelsey had gotten up a little after 6 and I was not excited to go to church with her. Not just that, but it's been a very busy week with not much daddy time. (He had to work all day Saturday.) So we went downstairs and made choc. chip banana pancakes and hot chocolate and sloooowed down. It was a great day of rest and family time.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Halloween and Such

We had a pretty fun Halloween. It is unusually warm for Anchorage this time of year. Last year was absolutely miserable, less than 10 degrees and so much snow. This year it was raining! Which means it is definitely not freezing temps. It's awesome. Tuesday we went to a fun Halloween party at Cassandra's house. The kids had lunch, played lots of games and of course got some candy. That night Kenny took all the kids when Tyler had soccer, and I went to Young Womens. I don't have to go to many activities throughout the year, just the personal progress ones that I'm in charge of. So that's nice. Thursday was Halloween. The day itself wasn't too exciting. Business as usual. But that night we got all dressed up and Kenny made it home barely in time to head over to the church with us for the ward trunk or treat. That was the only trick-or-treating we did, and they got more than enough candy there :).
Friday Kenny had work off. We were able to get a lot done; setting up shelves in the garage, organizing, hanging up stuff on walls, etc. I also took Ty and Bryn on a "Friday Field Trip". It's a new thing I'm going to start doing with them every other Friday when Kenny's home. Either he or I will take the two of them to do some kind of fun, educational activity. This time we went to the Anchorage Museum. We were able to do a lot more than just the play place without the little girls. We looked at the art (which bored Brynlee and excited Tyler), then went upstairs to learn more about Alaska's history and the culture and lifestyle of the natives. Lots of cool stuff there. But after about 40 minutes they were anxious to get to the hands-on science stuff, so we did. We were lucky to be there when they were doing two different demonstrations, so they got to pet turtles and snakes. I was glad to have that time with them.
Saturday: Chores, Tyler went to a birthday party for Julia Swift, in our ward. He was so excited to go, and loves picking out gifts for other people. We hit up the library used book sale, got some more stuff done and hung out as a family. It was nice to just be together this weekend.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Why Homeschool

I haven't said much on this blog about homeschooling. I think mostly that's because I was afraid of people's reactions. I didn't want them to judge me, and I didn't want to hear any criticism for doing what we thought was right for our family. However, I also realize that there are people out there who genuinely want to look into the option of homeschooling. They are curious as to how other people might go about it (everybody does it differently!), and wondering if it is a good choice for them. So, I'm going to put my pride aside for a little while and let you all into our lives as homeschoolers. Keep in mind, I haven't been doing this for very long at all. My oldest is in 1st grade this year. So we are still figuring things out too, and changing all the time. But the reasons remain the same, so I will share those too.

What made us decide to home school?
Background: My husband and I were never homeschooled. We both went to public school our entire school lives, and never really considered anything different for our own family, up until it was time for them to go.
It sort of happened very naturally. First of all, I never send my kids to preschool. Maybe because I think it's ridiculously overpriced for something I can very easily teach my children myself. I found that I really liked being the one teaching my kids. It was fun for both (all) of us and I think it helped me get to know them better, and have some good quality time together each day. When it came time for Tyler to go to Kindergarten, we were living in Ohio. I had a good friend, Loni, who homeschooled her kids and I really admired their family and how they made it all work. I felt like they had their priorities straight, and that the most important things were in focus. She had also had her kids close together (even closer than ours) and so I saw that it was possible after all :). But of course I had to make a pros and cons list, because that's what I do. We prayed about it a lot, and Kenny and I discussed it all the time. We decided that we could just try it for a year and see what we thought. If it was a horrible failure, then he hadn't missed out on much and we could just send him the next year.

I was worried that we were doing something so different. It was new, and scary, and I wasn't sure if I was qualified. (Which, now I see how messed up that thought is. Nobody is more qualified than the child's own mother to teach them! I was just brainwashed by the popular mindset of the day.) I wasn't sure if I would be able to handle all the stress, and responsibility that comes with it. There's a lot of pressure that comes with being solely responsible for what your children learn! And I feel the weight of that every day. But I also count it as a great privilege and blessing that I am able to stay home and teach them. I take it very seriously, and am so glad that I have the choice.

Halfway through what would have been Tyler's Kindergarten year, we had a sudden change of jobs and moved to Alaska. I was glad we weren't having to pull him out of school during that crazy time.
But just for the sake of sharing, here's what we felt were, and are, the pros and cons of homeschooling.

I think the most important things they can be learning during these young, formative years is right from wrong. I want them to learn, more than anything else in the world, about the gospel of Jesus Christ, and what it means to be a good person. I wanted to focus on their moral and character development. I want them to be patriotic and have a deep love for their country, and the great stories of its founding. If they can have a really solid foundation and be more sheltered from the world and all the bad things in it while they are still developing their moral code, then I feel like they will be that much better prepared to face it all when the time comes. As a young child especially, they need to feel so loved and special. Who better to provide that love and teach those morals, then me, their mother?

Whenever I would get together with women who had school-age children, there was a lot of complaining. There were so many problems with other students, with the bad influences and things they were learning from kids, problems with the teachers, with the system, with ridiculous amounts of homework and specific ways that they were being forced to teach it. I would sit and listen to these women thinking, "there's got to be a better way!" Homeschooling allows me the freedom to teach what my children are interested in, what we as their parents feel is important, and lets them be kids. I don't think they should be required to sit in a desk all day at school (as 5 years old!) and then come home, only to have more homework to do. They are KIDS. I think they learn best through playing and working--both of which they are able to do a lot of at home.

Every child learns differently. They all have different strengths and weaknesses, and talents that need to nurtured and developed. One of the challenges of public school is there are way too many kids for one teacher to possibly be able to cater to each individual learning style. At no fault of the teacher, it's just a fact. As a mother, I know my kids better than anyone else. I can see where they are struggling and give them that extra help without them being labeled as "the dumb kid", or have them comparing themselves with everyone else and making them feel badly about themselves and their abilities. The opposite is also true, that if they are excelling in another area, they won't be held back for the sake of the other kids in class.

Sibling relationships. Yes of course my kids fight and quarrel like all other siblings in the world. But they also play really well together and have a lot of experiences working and learning together. It is really sweet to watch them interact (when they're being kind...) and to see them help teach the other something they've already learned.

Freedom! We are not tied to anyone else's schedule. We don't have to spend a lot of time in the car dropping off and picking up. We can vacation whenever we want to (which is nice because we live in Alaska so far away from family!) If it's a really nice day, we can spend most of it outside! The days are ours for the taking and it's nice to have that freedom.

It's certainly not all rainbows and butterflies. There's the issue of the house being in a constant state of clutter! It's very demanding to keep up with everything and try to juggle it all.

Sometimes the little girls are wanting more attention or someone's sick, and like I said, it's just a never-ending game of juggling. There are constant interruptions; diaper changing, wiping bums, spilled drinks, problems with the dog, etc. etc. It can be exhausting and overwhelming, and some days I wish I could just ship them all off so I can sit down, or maybe clean the house and leave it clean for like, more than 1 minute. But I also see how that is a very minor issue, in comparison with the larger picture. It just takes a lot of reminding myself, and never rest :).

Boredom. Tyler especially is usually wanting someone to play with him. Perhaps if he had a brother close to him, it'd be different. But his sisters usually play dolls and stuff together, which he's not a fan of. He doesn't like when I have so much regualar housework to do. He thinks I should be able to give him all the one-on-one time he wants. But obviously that's not possible.. He does get a lot of time from me, but he's one of four kids (5 when we babysit 3-4 days a week) and there's many demands of keeping house that he doesn't get. He's very social, and also very competitive. So I can see how going to "normal school" (as he calls it) would be a lot of fun for him. And we're working on getting him into a good school. They just do it by lottery draw here and so far we haven't been picked. We'll re-evaluate next year and see what the best decision is for him individually. He will turn 8 halfway through the school year next year, so I feel good about sending him at that age.

The next post will be on HOW we run our homeschool.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


We had fun last week with a few pre-halloween activities. We carved pumpkins for FHE activity on Monday. They each got to design their own faces, except for Kelsey of course. She didn't really want much to do with the pumpkins at all.

And on Saturday, though we really didn't have time for it, we went downtown and went trick-or-treating to a bunch of participating stores. It was only for about an hour, and that was enough :). Kenny had taken Ty and Bryn swimming at the YMCA right before we left, and Tyler was the only one who could hurry and get into his costume without any help. So he's the only one who dressed up. Poor kids, if only their mom didn't dislike Halloween so much... anyway it was fun to be with the Reeds. We don't seem them much anymore since we changed wards, and Tyler wanted to get together with a friend, so we called and made a plan.

There was some costume confusion that was frustrating for Ty. You see, I haven't yet been able to find the box with our coats in it. The little girls have theirs, but I can't for the life of me find Tyler's, mine, or Kenny's coats. So Tyler was dressed as a ninja, sword and all. However, the only thing he had to stay warm was his fireman rain coat. People kept asking if he was a fireman or a ninja, or a fireman-ninja? Poor kid.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Closer Look

I haven't talked about each of us individually in a long time, so here's a little update.

Kelsey- Coming up on 20 months! She's growing up so fast and is quite the little ham. She likes to make everyone laugh and enjoys the attention. Her hair is finally starting to grow more so she doesn't look so much like a boy (as the kids always say). Except I think it's going to be curly like Bryn's, which right now means it just sort of flips out every which way and makes her look a little bit crazy. Funny wings flipping out behind her ears. I think it's adorable though. Her eating dramatically improved overnight, it seemed. She just decided she could relinquish a little control, and maybe her life wasn't so bad after all. So she now eats everything we're eating (not in large quantities though) and it sure makes my life a lot easier. I stressed about her nutrition a lot before, and now I can relax. She doesn't talk very clearly, but she repeats us for scriptures every night and can say everybody's names really cute. She's very obsessed with animals and can do pretty much any animal sound that I know. She loves books still, and is always trying to keep up with her big sisters.

Madison- Nearly 3 years old, and I know I've said it before, but she's very big and "old" for her age. She is just the cutest little girl, with a thick build still :). Kenny and I agree that she is so far our most stubborn 2 year old. Not that she's always rotten, but of all the kids she will be defiant for the longest, without budging at all. She does not compromise, and she does not like to back down on whatever position she is taking. If you do something, she will un-do it, and then do it again by herself. It presents its challenges but overall she has a very sweet demeanor. She remembers the funniest movie quotes and pulls them out at appropriate times which has us all laughing. She is often singing, and it' so cute to hear her little voice. Probably my favorite song she sings is "You are so beautiful to me", the way Alfalfa does it on Little Rascals. :)

Brynlee- is still a giggly, silly, happy little girl. She is in the 5 year old gymnastics class and is so happy in there. We still struggle with her staying focused and following directions, in class and at home, but we're working on it. I homeschool her along with Ty, and she's very different to teach than Tyler. I have to exercise a lot more patience, and continually find way to make things into a game, and make it fun. Otherwise she completely checks out and is impossible to teach. She is a smart girl, but she just wants to have fun, so we have to improvise. And that's okay. I just can't get stuck in the thinking that the way I was taught in public school is the way everyone should be taught at every age. I have to remind myself too, she's still pre-school age. She also loves books, dressing up, playing dolls and playing make-believe anything with Madi. She did a great job in her primary program today and recited her line perfectly. She was nervous to go up there but once she knew that daddy and I would watch her the whole time she decided it would be alright.

Tyler- My big boy is in 1st grade this year, but still homeschooled. We tried to get him into a charter school (I don't remember if I've mentioned this before) but it's done on a lottery draw and we were not very lucky. So we were put on a waiting list and made our way up as people chose different schools, etc. Anyway we're now #10 on the list, so that will roll-over to next year and he'll be able to go to "real school" as he calls it. I love having him at home though. He's a joy to teach, a great student, and very helpful too. He sets a really good example for his sisters to follow which always makes my job easier. I have to be careful to not ask him to do too much, because he already takes his responsibilities so seriously, and holds himself to such a high standard. His most favorite things in the world are art, science, and soccer. He is doing soccer and gymnastics right now which is fun for him to be with other kids his age, and respond to a different authority. He's currently obsessed with drawing monsters and has the most creative imagination--no two monsters are alike. We sure go through a lot of paper with that boy. He gave a short talk in the primary program today and did a great job. He really loves being in the spotlight and after the practice yesterday he told me, "I can't wait to get up in front of all those people and read my talk!"

Me- I am happy, healthy, and terrific! (dad :)) I feel like life never slows down to get a break, but it's the best kind of busy I can imagine. I'm happy to be the one at home, teaching and nurturing these sweet spirits. Today I got called and set apart as a Young Womens Advisor. I'm happy to be back in the young womens program, but with not such a heavy responsibility :). I also babysit Anja 3-4 days a week. She's 10 months old so it does add more challenges to my busy days, especially when she gets dropped off at 6:1but it's good for me too. I was telling Kenny how it's always helpful to do something hard, because when I only have my 4 kids, I feel much more free and capable. Whereas before I felt overwhelmed trying to go anywhere with them. Now that I have to occasionally do it with 5 little ones, I feel like my "normal" life is a lot easier! :) So that's a bonus. We're still not done emptying out the storage unit and getting everything set up here at home. We still can't park the cars in the garage, but it's coming. And every day we make a little progress and get that much closer to a "normal" workload of cleaning and house keep-up. I'm struggling balancing all the things I feel are so important in my life and making time for each of them. I really enjoy working out and realize how necessary that is (especially with this added weight I can't seem to get rid of). I also know that reading my scriptures in the morning is an absolute MUST, and I'm trying to continue to learn and grow through reading. So I'm always reading something. I don't just mean those quick, mindless, fun-story novels. I mean like really reading to learn. I just can't get it all in. Either I read or I work out, but I can't seem to do both and I don't know how to reconcile that. I'll keep trying to find a way, but any suggestions are welcome.

Kenny- This guy continues to impress me with how hard he works. He's putting in a lot of hours and keeping it all together. He also got called and set apart as the Elders Quorum President today. I thought it was so cool how the Stake Pres. said in his setting apart that he was foreordained to this calling, and that he has a work to do here. I think he will do a great job and am glad he can use his talents to bless others lives. Weekends are anything but fun and relaxing. It's more like, Kenny's home so I pull out this massive to-do list and we try to tackle as much as we can! But he's very helpful and a good sport about it. He built the other units stairs on the back deck this weekend, and they look great! I'm amazed at his handy-man skills. I need to take a pic of them.

Well that's about all for us Westons. Our days are quickly growing darker and colder and we're gearing up for another long winter. Life is good. :)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Favorites From Our Week

Soccer season is back for Ty! He's thrilled about it. We tried to sign Brynlee up too, but I was not quick enough and there were no more spots left, so she's on a waiting list. Bummer. It would have been at the same time, and same place which is always convenient. Anyway so this is where we spend Tues. and Thurs. evenings. Entertaining these 3 for an hour, and keeping Kelsey off the field isn't exactly my idea of a good time, but it's okay.  

This was one of my instagram photos. Ty's so sweet to read to his sisters when I'm busy. This was right when she woke up and wanted a book. She loves her books.

 Whenever it's not raining, we go to the park down the street and go for a walk on the nice trails there, too. We love the beautiful colors of the leaves. We've had some pretty big wind storms that blew them all off the trees though :)

On Wednesday we decided to forget about all that we had to do for a few hours and headed out for some sunshine. We went to Potter's Marsh first. I wanted to stop there all summer, and for some reason we never got to it, even though it's just right off the freeway and not too far away. So there's not very many birds there anymore to see (it's a really big bird-viewing area). Nonetheless they loved running up and down the huge boardwalk.

Ty and Bryn would run way ahead and these two tried their darndest to keep up. Madi hollered out, "Wait up guys! This is the only fast I can go! I'm just a widdle girl!"

We then continued up along my favorite drive in the whole world. Seriously. No matter the season, this stretch of road from Anchorage down to Girdwood is my most favorite. We stopped at Beluga Point (again, we love it there) and the kids just love climbing on all the rocks, throwing stuff in the water and feeling like they're on top of the world :)

Friday night Kenny and I got to go to the temple together! We switched off babysitting with the Sponsellers so we could each have a temple date. We enjoyed having David and Alina over the next morning. Alina is only about a month old and it sure makes me baby hungry having that sweet angel around. Kenny commented on how I was in heaven snuggling that sweet babe.

Also on Saturday the fence guys finished fencing in our backyard! It's very nice to have that done. Also, Kenny worked really hard building 2 steps on our back deck. Before it was like a 2.5 - 3 ft. drop, now you can walk down steps :). It's much safer for everyone, and it looks nice too. What a handy man!

This next picture is from our Sunday evening walk today. I sure run out of thing to do to keep these kids busy on Sunday! But it's been a great week!