Friday, April 18, 2014

Three Sisters: Step 1

Bit of earth selected.
Definition of an optimist: a person with an absolute black thumb, who keeps buying seeds and plants every spring anyway. (Or is that the definition of insanity?)

Last year I was so sick that the plants have all done whatever they wanted to do. The boys absolutely LOVE the field of dandelions that is our back yard right now. So there's a lot of catch up work to do. And I've never been in charge of landscaping my entire life.

This year, we are FINALLY going to attempt the Three Sisters set up. I've got the seeds, and a yard to plant them in. I just, you know, need to plant them.

So yesterday I got my butt in gear and started the process by de-weeding an area. There were these awful, prickly plants growing that had to be gotten rid of. They poked me thorough my gardening gloves! I'm glad the dirt was very dry; that made it easier to pull out the root. And the special tool that my aunt bought us last year was a lifesaver!

20 minutes later

A LOT of weeds!
Today while at the store for better dirt than the stuff that' the ground.....outside, my kids expressed disappointment that we were not planting any flowers. So I let them each pick one and we de-grassed an area in the front yard and planted some pretty flowers, too.

Stay tuned for more developments! (I hope.)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Slow and Steady: Week 34

For Age 0, Week 34 of Slow and Steady Get Me Ready the activity is to introduce sizes with mixing bowls and measuring cups.

The idea is to line them up, (their) left to right, smallest to biggest. Use the words "small," "middle," and "large," to identify, and put them inside of each other. If you do this often enough, eventually baby will start doing it themselves. Or, if they're teething, like they probably are at this age, then they'll probably just put them in their mouths.

Ether way, it's starting to build understanding vocabulary, encourages observations, and free new toys! (Assuming you don't actually need them for baking.)

At this age I like to place object just a little bit out of baby's reach, so they have to stretch to get it. Once they're comfortable with reaching a little bit, I put it a little bit further. This is intended to encourage movement and eventually crawling.

We'll keep doing this for a week and see if she starts putting them in each other. And I'll enlist the boys to show her, too. They love helping teach "baby school."
 Slow and Steady Get Me Ready has a preview available at Google Books. It can also be purchased at (the picture of the book is an affiliate link.)

I don't get paid for reviews; all opinions are my own.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Supplementing FLL1, Lessons 71-80

A continuation of how we're adding to First Language Lessons Level 1 to make it more kinetic learner friendly. (Click here for my posts on previous lessons.)

I actually did not add anything to any of these lessons. There was nothing specifically new that needed it. We've been breezing along with this, avoiding the copy work optional activities because we are also doing Writing With Ease 1 now. Lately FLL1 seems to be going quite smoothly for both boys.

Nothing else to report for this block of 10 lessons!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Happy Birthday, Early Bird!: A look back

A few weeks ago, Early Bird turned five years old.

Gosh, I love this kid! He's crazy and imaginative and sweet and loving and flat out ridiculous at times.

1 month old/ -1 month corrected age
He was my first preemie, and I learned a lot from that experience. He's doing so well health wise. I'm so grateful because I know a lot of kids born at 32 weeks end up with lasting issues.

He's also my early learner; my early reader. Two years ago I was freaking out over my not-yet-3-year-old learning to read. It took me a while to get over the shock and then the consuming worry that I was going to somehow screw this up. It's hard to believe that two years have passed. It's been easy and hard all at the same time. Once again, we're blessed because unlike many gifted kids, Early Bird has not manifested any of the often accompanying issues and difficulties. At times I've struggled with treating him like his age rather than his reading level. But the older he has gotten, the less this has been an issue. Having an older brother to emulate, he is maturing faster than Builder Boy did. Which makes me a little sad. He was little for so little time and then BAM! reading and all sorts of other developmental intellectual advancements that just made him seem so much older than he actually was.

I recently guest posted on Dusty's blog, To the Moon and Back on how we adapted curricula for an early learner. Except for math and handwriting, Early Bird is doing everything Builder Boy is doing school-wise. Which means he started 2nd grade work when he was 4 1/2, but we're calling it kindergarten.

And my fears? Well, he's learning whether I'm teaching or not. I learned that during my pregnancy with Lady Bug. He's picked up a few things incorrectly, like the pronunciation of "jalapeno," but we're correcting it without too much hassle. His reading grew in leaps and bounds beyond what we've done in our reading curriculum, but I'm still going over every single lesson so that there are no gaps. We've found one or two gaps, so I'm glad we are doing that. And thankfully he doesn't mind that the lesson is super easy and takes very little time, since it's so far behind him. While at times I think I should be stretching him more, I'm happy with his progress.

Happy Birthday, big boy. :)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Lady Bug is Eight Months Old!

Wait a minute, eight months old? That can't be right! This past month seems like it barely started, and now we're at another new one. Lady Bug has done what seems like a lot of growing this month. She is sitting up all by herself very well now. She hates being on her stomach, so we don't do as much tummy time as we probably should. Which means very little rolling over. Since she's my third child, I'm not worrying about it too much. I know I'm babying her a bit, seeing as she's going to be my last, but I'm challenging her a little bit at times, too.

We had a bit of a developmental scare over her eating. She's eating a bottle just fine (15 lbs, over three times her birth weight!) but wasn't taking solid foods. We started trying here and there since she was five months developmentally (she was born a month early) but she wasn't taking to it. We figured she just wasn't ready and didn't push it. We tried once a month or every three weeks, but nothing stayed in and went down. It all came back out. I started becoming concerned and tried giving her just what she gets in her bottle in a spoon to see if she was capable of swallowing and she was just spitting out the applesauce (or pear, or rice cereal, or everything else I tried) because she didn't like it. That came out the front, too. I mentioned it to the pediatrician at her check up and she felt Lady Bug should be evaluated by an occupational therapist to determine if there was a problem. The doctor was concerned that if Lady Bug did not start on solids soon that she would develop a texture aversion and refuse food when she got older. We made the appointment, I attempted to feed her in front of the therapist just like I had done at home and, what do you know, she did just fine. We received instructions to try every day for two weeks and then go back. It's been a week and she's doing awesome. The little stinker.

Other than that, she has learned how to clap this month and is very proud of herself. She has also started the stranger anxiety stage, which has turned my smiles-at-everyone little girl into a hides-her-head-when-someone-smiles-at-her baby. Which is perfectly normal, and a little bit cute.

Despite seeming very small for her age, I've started putting her in 6-9, 6-12, and 9 month clothes. (Baby clothing sizes over the brands is a pain.) That 9 month white sleeper I've been taking her pictures in fits perfectly now! This was also the first photo shoot we've done that she actually played with the bear. It was so cute how she smiled at him. She's very interested in making all sorts of sounds with her mouth; raspberries, clucks, slurppy kiss sounds. Once in a while a consonant. Sticking her tongue out also happens a lot. Lots of swollen gums, but no teeth yet. Over all she is happy, healthy, and the sunshine in our lives.

Friday, March 28, 2014

A peek inside my brain 10 minutes ago

Mommy/sleep deprived brain: Ugh. I just want a nap. The baby is sleeping, I should be sleeping, too.
COFFEE: No sleep! I'm wide awake! Let's get something DONE!
Gifted brain: Oh! I want to clean and organize the play room! Or finally put together the Ikea shelves! But first I have to clean up the living room and wash the walls and....
Depression: I'm not doing any of that crap; too much effort. I'm just going to stay in bed.
COFFEE & Gifted brain: Well, we should at least BLOG!!!
Anxiety: But I don't have anything to blog about, I haven't done anything special. And I'm back logged on the series I'm working on. And the guest posts I promised other blogs. It's been almost two weeks, how do I explain my absence? I'm not ready to write about homeschooling with depression; I don't have any helpful advice. Just putting stuff down isn't good enough; no one's going to want to spend their valuable time reading that. And I don't want to be a total downer; then no one will want to ever read my blog again.

End result: nothing gets done, not even a nap, and I'm more emotionally paralyzed than ever.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

Silly gear courtesy of Great Grandma

Well, I did not make any plans for St. Patrick's Day other than our family's tradition of corned beef, red potatoes, and cabbage. But they talked about it in Builder Boy's Sunday school class, so this morning he was full of ideas. He's going through a crafting kick, so he wanted to make green shamrocks. I taught them how to make one out of hearts.

It was all Builder Boy's idea to put the three parts of the Trinity on his project. We re-watched the VeggieTales St. Patrick's Day skit and Builder Boy insisted on adding that part.

Builder Boy also wanted a green lunch, so he chose a tuna fish sandwich with salad and Early Bird chose salad with spinach, tomatoes, and cheese. Not exactly your exciting, Pinterest worthy celebration. But I'm glad I went with Builder Boy's idea. They're happy.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Self Portrait Color Therapy

I have been struggling so much lately. I don't want to get in to that right now, but it's been sucky. (Yes, Spell Check, "sucky" IS a word, I don't care if you don't like it. (Totally fangirl channeling The Bloggess))

Anyway, stuff has been more difficult to deal with lately so I did something I haven't done in a very long time. I made an abstract self portrait using what I call Color Therapy.

When I was in high school I read a book about color psychology. I don't remember the title, but some of it stuck with me, especially the emotions ascribed to different colors. A year later a new friend and I developed a rapport and worked together taking turns drawing what we saw in each other, based on the order of colored crayons the person chose. I also started doing abstract, geometric self portraits of myself, attempting to shut down my over-thinking and just feel what I was doing, and then once I was done analyzed the result to see if I was ignoring how I was feeling about something.

This week, almost 10 years later, I remembered that technique and purchased a 50 color set of colored pencils and some watercolor paper. (I prefer the texture.) This was the result of my first attempt:

The World Without, The World Within

I'm not sure how long it took (Principal Daddy was home and kept the kids happy so I could have the space and time to do this) but it was at least an hour. I've shared the result with a small group and they expressed interest in the process, so I thought I'd write it up here for anyone who would like to try something similar.
You do not have to be an expert on color psychology. What is most important is identifying what emotions each color makes you feel, and then using them to express what you're feeling.

When I go through all the colors/emotions, starting at on point in the spectrum and using all of the colors in the rainbow, I end up feeling more calm, centered, and balanced.
I always start with the profile/outline. Sometimes it's a split face for conflicting emotions, sometimes, like here, it shows the contrast between how I'm feeling on the inside and how I perceive the world. Sometimes I am unhappy with the first attempts at the shape. I don't try for accuracy, rather a representation outline that I am happy with. With this attempt I used a white colored pencil and once I had what worked for me, went over it several times to make a deep indent.

I did not always put recognizable facial features on the portraits I did ten years ago. Those looked more like Picasso wannabes. But this time I felt very drawn to include an eye. Nothing else; just an eye. I knew that I intended to use a range of non-realistic colors with this project, but I felt compelled to make the eye as realistic as my meager skills were capable of. Honestly, I'm quite shocked at how well it turned out. I've never done such a good job before, and I'll probably never be able to replicate it.

Work in Progress
Then I colored in the face, expressing how I felt inside. Half way thorough I had the idea for what I wanted for the outside. Once I finished the whole work I realized that that muted, gray, slightly fuzzy/bland feeling inside meant I was/am depressed. I'd suspected earlier that week, but I didn't really recognize it as such until after I stood back and looked at what I had made.

So to recap, to do this yourself;
  1. Assign emotions to each of the 6 basic colors; red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple/violet.
  2. Find some time when you won't be disturbed. (I consider this to be very important.)
  3. Draw an outline or profile. Make several, if you need to, until you are happy with what you have.
  4. Try to turn off your brain as much as possible and use intuition/what you feel drawing you.
  5. Color. Try to eventually get through all the colors if you are looking for balance. If you're just looking for expression and more discovery, only use what feels comfortable. 
  6. Step back, take a minute, and then use your brain to analyze what you're created.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Slow and Steady Week 30 (and Week 11)

For Age 0, Week 30 of Slow and Steady Get Me Ready the activity is to encourage your baby to crumple paper and, if they're interested, to then throw it into a box.

A few weeks ago when I was first looking ahead at lessons, I was not sure that this was an activity that Lady Bug would be able to do. But then I noticed that when given a napkin or a paper towel, she would crumple it all on her own. So developmentally, I'd say the book is pretty much on track.

I didn't want something quite as harsh as regular paper, so I used some softer paper that had been used to pack an order that I had saved. I had the idea this would be a fun game with tissue paper and a gift bag, but I couldn't find my tissue paper. Lady Bug had plenty of fun crinkling the packing paper.

So much fun, in fact, that her brothers decided that they wanted to crinkle paper, too. And throw it. Thankfully, I had plenty of paper. Lady Bug not only got to practice fine motor skills by crumpling up the paper, but she also practiced hand-eye coordination by reaching and trying to grab one of the papers her brothers held out for her.

Lady Bug loved this. She also liked putting the paper in her mouth, so be aware of what type of paper you give your baby. Any time you need help crinkling tissue paper for gift bags, I highly recommend a baby six months or older. Including up to age 4.9 and 7.

We also did the suggested activity from Week 11, with one adjustment. The book, recommends early on making a colorful sock ball to use in various activities. That's where I got hung up so many months ago. But I realized the exact same effect could be had with a small stuffed toy. And, it turns out, I was doing something very similar to week 11 already. I just hadn't realized it. I started the bird near her diaper and had it "hop" along her torso up to her neck, and repeated or let her grab it; whichever happened. Even though it's almost 20 weeks behind, Lady Bug still enjoys trying to catch the bird.

 Slow and Steady Get Me Ready has a preview available at Google Books. It can also be purchased at (the picture of the book is an affiliate link.)

I don't get paid for reviews; all opinions are my own.

Monday, March 10, 2014

How I'm Teaching Geography (Without the Kids Realizing They're Doing School)

I checked my blog (Yay! for blogging aka my only way of keeping records) and it's been almost two years since we've done any "official" geography lessons at our school. Builder Boy had a lot of fun learning about maps with Principal Daddy, but they never actually finished the book.

A few weeks ago I ordered the dvd of Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? - The Complete Series . We are picky about what our kids watch, and we don't have regular tv/cable. So far I haven't noticed anything that has made me regret the decision; and Builder Boy telling me the highest mountain in the world is Mt. Everest and that it's located in Nepal tells me that the educational value is defiantly there. I "reward" them with an episode or two if they get their school work done or need some down/quiet time. Silly kids don't even realize they're learning important stuff!

The boys have been showing a lot of interest in the states, especially since we've moved. Some homeschooling friends recommended The Scrambled States of America and so I purchased the book and the Scrambled States game. (I really don't think the book is enough on it's own.) The boys love the silly story and the game, and can play it on their own when they want to. We play the noncompetitive kid way for now, until they're a bit older and faster at it. Without me even having to make a point of it, they're learning the capitols and the nicknames!

So proud of himself!
The Scrambled States of America game is great for them to learn the individual states and capitol, but it's not so great at teaching the kids where they all fit together. Especially for my kinetic learner. So after a week or so with the game and their knowledge of the states was pretty impressive, I ordered the Melissa & Doug USA Map 51 pcs Floor Puzzle with (most) of the individual states as the pieces. Builder Boy LOVES this puzzle and is putting it together several times a week, all on his own. He is very proud of doing it without any help, and he likes to "review" at the end by showing every.single.state. to an adult and tell them what it is and what he knows about it. He also enjoyed "quizzing" relatives when they were visiting last week. He's having so much fun, and as it's never been called school, he's learning for fun!

If you don't want to deal with a whole big puzzle, and have an extra state map hanging around, I found a great idea on Pinterest for turning that map into a puzzle. You can even add magnets to the back.

Then a few days ago, while Principal Daddy was looking for apps for the new tablet, I got asked "have you ever heard of Stack the States?" Had I! I'd just forgotten about it. We happened to get the app on a day that it was free (right now it's only $0.99!) Watching Builder Boy play made me realize he'd picked up more than I thought he had. I also learned that it's not just rote learning. The app is asking questions about locations, relations to things that haven't been directly taught. And he's applying what he's learned about abbreviations from our grammar lessons to the questions about the state abbreviations, which he's never been taught beyond our state abbreviation for our address. It's also exposing him to the state flags; when he can't guess it right, it tells him the answer, so he's learning even more thought the app!

And just to round it all out with Early Bird's learning style, I found a neat states and capitols song on youtube! We haven't listened to it very many times yet, but we will be listening to it more, as well the the Tour the World song.

I do have blank regional maps that they could label, but that would be school. I'm just going to keep letting them "play" with what we have and call it above and beyond acceptable for Kindergarten and 2nd Grade.

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