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.