Monday, September 30, 2013

Lady Bug is Two Months Old!


Here's month two of the month-by-month pictures inspired by Pinterest.

The 9 month sleeper still looks rediculusly too big for her and the teddy bear looks a little bit smaller. She smiled and tried to coo at the bear when I placed him in front of her.

 The dress was made by her grandmother. I'm calling it The Princess Dress.

Starting to learn how to smile?



Parents, please keep your sick kids home!

It never fails; we are healthy all summer and then AWANAs starts and a few days later the kids get sick. And then I get sick. And our routine and any hope of school goes out the window. I know public school kids are still sent to school when they're sick as long as they're not "too sick." Really? How is that a good thing? Aren't the kids more difficult to teach? Doesn't the lack of rest extend the sickness period? Oh, and you're exposing all the other kids to your sickness, too!

Now, I don't consider myself a germaphobe. I consider myself to be a respectful, considerate parent. When I was attending Bible Study Fellowship they asked that you not bring a child if they had a runny nose or even a slight fever. The child may or may not have been contagious; they didn't want to risk infecting all the other children. Sometimes it felt like I was the only one who followed that rule. Do you know how many times I didn't take the kids because they had a runny nose? I was being respectful and considerate of the other children and their mothers who were going to have to deal with a sick child if mine infected them. But we'd get better, go again, and then get sick again because other parents weren't following the rules. (Yes, I know you can be contagious without those symptoms.)

I understand that it stinks for your child to miss out on an activity when they're not feeling too bad. I understand that it's not fair for siblings of the sick child, if they're not sick too, to miss out on the activity to keep the sick child home. So is it fair to spread the illness to the entire class? I missed out on a lot of Bible studies and my boys missed a lot of AWANA nights because I didn't want to risk getting your kid sick. Won't you please do the same for mine?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Kindergarten Online Math Comparison

This summer I saw Early Bird try three different math learning programs online: MoreStarfall.com, Mathseeds (off shoot of Reading Eggs,) and Dreambox.

We have been paying for MoreStarfall.com happily for a year and a half now ($35/year.) They have been adding things to it since we first signed up, and it was Early Bird's first introduction to math subjects outside of a few things I did with him. However they are games, not actual lessons. While a bright child could learn from it, they could also pick up wrong ideas if they are doing it without being taught what exactly it is they're doing. It also has multiplication and division games, again without actual teaching, which does not seem appropriate for their target audience (pre-k to 1st grade.) There is also no progression; the kids can pick whichever game they want to play without having to prove they have the skills or knowledge necessary.

1 of 5 Math Categories on More Starfall

We tried Mathseeds when we signed up for the free trial of Reading Eggs. Builder Boy took the assessment test and tested out of it. Early Bird said that he didn't want to take the test and instead wanted to start at the beginning. So he started with them teaching him his numbers and shapes (which he's known since he was 2.) But it was entertaining and fun enough that he didn't mind that it was all stuff that he knew and enjoyed it. He also enjoyed the reward system, getting to decorate his in-game tree house and changing his avatar. The Mathseeds trial period was only for two weeks, as it is separate from Reading Eggs so the codes we used for Reading Eggs didn't apply to it. You also have to pay separately for it, which is only good if you want just one or the other. From what I saw on Builder Boy's assessment test I would be interested in letting Early Bird do it if it didn't cost so much (to us.) I did appreciate that it was progressive, and that the child had to finish lower levels before advancing higher (unlike Starfall.)


I only let Early Bird try Dreambox twice. He really wanted to do what his big brother was doing, but with no manipulatives it really wasn't developmentally appropriate. I do like that for young kids they test their mouse skills before letting them play, to make sure they have the computer skills to even use the program. Early Bird has the mouse/computer skills, but wasn't able to connect what he knows with what they had on the screen. Dreambox is working really well for Builder Boy; Early Bird just isn't ready for it yet.

Overall, I would say that math should not be done on a computer for kindergarten level children. Math readiness skills like number recognition, counting, learning shapes, sorting, and patterns are fine. But when it comes to actual math; combining numbers and such, it should be done in person with manipulatives. This year I am going to start Early Bird on Right Start A and see how he does. It will be my first time teaching a subject on different levels, and I'll have to do it individually. Something new for me to learn!

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I don't get paid for linking to or reviewing these sites. All opinions are my own.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Schedule That's Not a Schedule

We start school next week! I have posted many times mentioning my love for making plans and schedules. I have also posted about how those plans and schedules never work out the way I want them to. Last year I had school all planned out. It did not turn out anywhere close to what I ended up doing thanks to life, sickness, pregnancy, and a move out of state. So I'm not going to schedule this year.

But I can't just not plan everything! So I've come up with a plan of a schedule that is looser than an actual schedule but still keeps us accountable, if that makes any sense.

Last year I had my curricula chosen and my goal was to finish them by the end of the school year. That didn't happen, so this year's goals are to finish last year's curricula and then start on the next levels when we finish the first. So I have general goals rather than sheets and sheets of paper with all the lessons scheduled out. Last year I had three subjects I wanted to do that never got started: spelling, writing, and nature studies. I never started spelling and writing because I didn't think Builder Boy was ready for it; I think he's ready now. I never really started nature studies because I never made the time for it. I'm going to try again this year. And our elective subjects of art, music, logic, and Latin never happened, either. I think I tried to do too much my first year.

Last year Wednesday was our "out and about" day that was also supposed to cover art and music along with a library visit. I chose Wednesdays because that was the day of my Bible study. But breaking up our school week in the middle did not work well. This year our "out day" will be Friday. Last year with taking a break in the middle of the week, we didn't know if we were going to get everything done or if we were going to need a catch up day until the weekend; which meant it wasn't as likely to get done. This time around we will have Friday to finish any work we didn't get done Monday-Thursday.

Instead of making long planned out and dated schedules of when we were going to do each lesson on which day for each subject I am going to just have goals per week. Four reading lessons, four writing lessons, four handwriting lessons, four grammar lessons, four spelling lessons, four math lessons, two science lessons, and two history lessons. If we end up doing more than one lesson on a day that's fine, we'll have more flexibility to adjust. Electives will happen on Friday unless lessons need to be made up.

Our daily schedule is going to be in parts rather than all together, trying to accommodate the baby's schedule and getting the boys accustomed to scheduled times rather than the complete freedom they're used to now. I'm actually going to be changing when we do things throughout the year as I gradually add in the subjects we didn't do last year. We will see how schooling in chunks works for us.

The intention is still to school year-round, with a somewhat lighter load in the summertime. Lord willing, we won't have any major life events that completely derail school this year. I am very grateful for having the flexibility homeschooling provides last year. I don't think I could have gotten Builder Boy up and ready and to school when I was that sick. I am also grateful that our "unschooling" the second half of first grade was for just first grade and it turned out pretty well. Except for math and handwriting; I do not recommend completely unschooling math, though Builder Boy did manage to figure some things out on his own that surprised me. He ended up forgetting many of the correct ways to write letters. Mostly Builder Boy's first grade year was the year he learned to read really well, which worked for me.

And that is (almost) the extent of the scheduling I'm going to do. I will work prepare ahead history and science since that requires extra materials and books to be gotten at the library. But instead of doing it a year ahead I'll be doing it a few weeks at a time. I will write in a month about if this actually works for us or not.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Deciding to Risk the NICU Again (Or Not)

Even as I was pregnant with Early Bird I was already thinking about having another child. Both my husband and I had wanted more than two kids, four being our "ideal" number. But then I had my second you're-going-to-die-if-you-don't-have-it-now emergency c-section, this time with a 3lb 1 oz premature baby and our view changed. Having gone through 7.5 weeks of having a baby in the NICU really took a toll on us. Was that something we wanted to risk going through again?

I asked my husband what was the worse thing about our NICU experience. He said feeling out of control, being completely dependent on strangers for the care of our fragile child. He said that it felt almost like giving our baby up for adoption and we only got visitation. And because we had another child we couldn't spend all day and night with Early Bird; we had to be home for Builder Boy, too.

For me, the separation was the worst. It was an hour's drive to the hospital and another hour's drive home. We had to schedule the visits right because that NICU only allowed us to hold him for one hour when he was being fed every three hours. We weren't allowed to hold him at other times so if we were late, we missed out and had to wait. With prayer and anointing, we emotionally handled the medical problems pretty well. It was the disconnect, I think, that affected us both the most. The disconnect that led to delayed bonding for me.

Early Bird at our first NICU reunion picnic
Before we brought Early Bird home, I desperately wanted to ask other the other moms in the NICU if they were willing to have another baby after this experience, but I felt it was too personal to ask an almost complete stranger. Thankfully a few months after Early Bird came home the NICU had a reunion picnic and the mothers of the two babies who were next to Early Bird in the NICU were there and we exchanged numbers. We connected on facebook and became good friends. We lived to far away from each other to see them often, but we've kept in touch and enjoyed watching each others NICU Buddies grow up. This year was the first time we couldn't make it to the reunion picnic and we really missed it. (This is the post about last year's picnic.)

The decision to have another child is individual for every person and their circumstances. Talking to other parents who have been in that situation helped me, so I'm blogging about it to help others looking for answers to that question, but don't have anyone to ask. Obviously my husband and I decided to go ahead and risk having another premature baby. We had intended to talk to a high risk specialist before conceiving to see what our chances were, but that didn't happen. We did make sure I was seen by a high risk ob/gyn so that this time around my concerns wouldn't be ignored and we were dealing with a doctor who was experienced with problem pregnancies. After being so horribly ill with this pregnancy, and having to be on bed rest and not being able to take care of my family we decided that this would be our last biological child. By the grace of God we made it through, somehow. But I don't want to deprive my family like that again. I am very happy that we have Lady Bug. I am annoyed with my body for being so bad at being pregnant. (That makes me feel a little bit like a failure, even though I know that's not the case.)

Lady Bug in the NICU
My extended family was not supportive of the idea of me risking my health and life again. They told me (before I became pregnant the third time) that it was selfish of me to risk my life and possibly leaving my children motherless and my husband as a single parent. But this decision was between my husband, God, and me, so I chose not to involve any others in the process. We prayed about it for a long time, starting when Early Bird came home. For a long time I really felt like God's answer was "no," and I respected that. Then it felt like was got the spiritual "go ahead" and despite the miserable times, I really think we did the right thing. I confess that very early on in the pregnancy, before I got on anti-nausea medications that worked, I did wonder if I had done the right thing. Even though I am pro-life, I wondered how I could possibly take care of my children when I couldn't even get off the couch or out of bed. I was in so much pain and constantly vomiting, I wonder, for a brief, dark moment, if it would all be too much and if I should end the pregnancy. But I held firm to my beliefs and my faith and I got through it. I never could have brought myself to get rid of the life growing inside of me; and I felt miserable for even thinking it for a moment. But I'm sharing this because if you're thinking about trying to get pregnant again after a previous, difficult or life threatening pregnancy, you should be prepared.

To that end I asked my two NICU mom friends to answer a few questions about their own experience and what they thought of risking having another preemie baby. When I asked a week and a half ago they both only had their NICU preemie child (their first born for each of them.)

 Victoria Smith
1) What was your medical condition that led to having a premature baby?
My medical condition was preeclampsia. My blood pressure got up to 199 over 119 before they decided to do a c section.
2) What were his/her birth stats? (gestational age, weight, etc.)
 Abby was 2 lbs 2 oz , 17 inches long, and I was 29 4/7 weeks along when she was born.
3) What health issues has your child had to deal with? Any lasting health complications for you?
 No lasting health problems to speak of. As with all preemies she is susceptible to asthma and things like that. She had a heart surgery but has no complications from it. Nor have I had any lasting complications.
4) Is there a greater possibility that you will have the same problems if you became pregnant again?
  Yes and no. There is the same chance I would have the same problem as before. And regardless I would have to deliver early via c section. But not necessarily a greater chance no.
5) Are you still interested and willing to have another baby, even with a higher risk of complications?
 Still that doesn't stop me from wanting more children. In fact I recently found out that I am pregnant again, and while I'm scared of more problems, I also have full trust in God for His perfect plan for me and my child.
6) Any words of advice?
 Going through a premature baby is one of the toughest and scariest things I've ever endured. However it has given me a greater appreciation of the frailty of life. I see my daughter as a miracle and thank God every day she made it through with flying colors. 

Amanda P.
1) What was your medical condition that led to having a premature baby?
 At 22 weeks pregnant I went to my gyno after having some lower abdominal pain and found out my cervix was open and I was dialated to 3 cm. From there I was referred to a perinatologist in Sacramento which was 1 1/2 hours from home and from their office I was admitted to Mercy San Juan Antepartum unit. Over the next week I was loosely diagnosed with an incompetent or waving cervix and stayed in the hospital for the next 7 weeks. My blood pressure spiked and dipped a few times but I think it was mostly due to the slew of horrible medications I was on. My water finally broke at 29 weeks after the amniotic sac was funneling through my open cervix for about 3 weeks and I had an emergency c-section on March 17, 2009
2) What were his/her birth stats? (gestational age, weight, etc.)
 Ayden Andrew was born at 29 weeks gestation and was 2 lb 6 oz and 13 inches long then dropped to 1 lb 11 oz 2 days after birth. He was so tiny and precious.
3) What health issues has your child had to deal with? Any lasting health complications for you?
 Currently Ayden struggles with asthma and is very susceptible to getting sick. He has a pretty weak immune system and he is also anemic. I am thankful that is all we have to deal with because the first 2 years of his life he was incredibly sick and had a lot of health problems. He had high blood pressure until age 3 and random seizures which have both subsided. He was also on at home oxygen and an apnea moniter until he was approximately 9 months old. I myself have had no lasting health problems due to my pregnancy or delivery.
4) Is there a greater possibility that you will have the same problems if you became pregnant again?
 I have a high probability of having the same complications again, about 80%, and I would have to also deliver via c-section. It is hard for my doctors to know until I'm pregnant how severe I would be so I would be put on bed rest from 16 weeks on and a cerclage of my cervix to try to prevent the opening of my cervix so soon.
5) Are you still interested and willing to have another baby, even with a higher risk of complications?
 I hope to someday have one more child but it will definitely be planned this time. If I do decide to get pregnant again I'll have to be at a point in my life where I can take care of myself and have the support to help me through what will be a tough road. I don't know if God has that in His plan for me right now but we will see.
6) Any words of advice?
 My advice to anyone dealing with a complicated pregnancy and/or the birth of a premature child is to reach out to all your resources whether it be the hospital social workers, your church, your family. Anyone and everyone you have that can be encouraging to you and supportive. That really helped me. Also, I read A LOT of books during my 7 1/2 week hospital stay about premature babies and all their possible medical problems and issues at each week gestation as I came to it. I also asked my doctors and neonatologists a lot of questions so I could feel more comfortable and confident with my son's care. I spent as much time as possible with my son in the NICU and since I lived so far away I utilized the Ronald McDonald house and the Friends of NICU at our hospital to help me afford to commute to be with my baby. Support is key! My son is such a miracle and a daily inspiration to me. We went through so much together but I wouldn't go back and change anything about our journey. Being a young mother, 20 years old when I got pregnant, I was definitely not "ready" or really mature enough to be a mother at that time in my life. Our experience really changed me and also drew me closer to God. I know now that everything happens how it is supposed to and I probably love my son even more because I know how fragile life is now and how precious each breath he takes is. ♡




A few years ago I made a facebook page NICU Babies for parents of NICU babies to connect with and talk about preemie issues. It's not a huge page, and I forget to update it at times, but if you have any preemie questions or want to ask parents who've been-there-done-that it's a good place to go. I'll be monitoring it so if you want to ask my or my friends any questions, we're all part of that page.

All difficult pregnancy, c-section, hospital stay, and preemie issue posts can be easily found on the Pregnancy and Preemies Page.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

History Timeline in a Folder


(Picture taken when I first made it.)




This is the folder timeline I made for our I Love America: Teachers Resource Kit curriculum. I was taking the timeline and all the papers back and forth from my house to my father-in-law's house, so it needed to be compact but still convey accurate scale. I ended up with seven pieces of paper taped together with a strip of paper at the "joints'' for reinforcement.

Each page is 50 years because most of the things that are covered in I Love America all happen close together so you need enough room on the paper. I also wanted Builder Boy to see the span of years between the discovery of America and the American Revolution period. The first page has to be glued to a piece of construction paper that is already in the folder or the pages won't fit properly. 

I love Velcro dots!
That many pages folded up with stiff "joints" stuck out a lot an kept wanting to unfold and bounce out, so I made a paper clasp to hold it all in. I taped the red strip of construction paper to the back of the piece of blue construction paper that I glued the first timeline page to. I folded over and glued the end of the strip of red paper to reinforce it. Then I used sticky velcro dots to finish the "clasp."





Since the pages load in the back, behind the timeline I put a page protector for holding the maps that are used for multiple lessons. All the pages that the kids color get three-whole-punched and put in.





Constitution Week with I Love America

I was given I Love America: Teachers Resource Kit by another homeschooling mom who was done with it. I was looking for a simple way to add some American history to our history plan and she very generously offered it to me. It was written for a full classroom but the times I have used it I have had no problem adapting for just one or two kids. My father in law is the one who used it with Builder Boy last year, so this is my first time doing it myself. (I planed it, printed the pages out, and got everything ready and 'Apa taught it when I was at Bible Study Fellowship with Early Bird.) It teaches early American history going with the holiday schedule, so events are out of chronological order. For that reason I made a folder timeline that also holds the coloring pages.

Reading the text of I Love America is where I first learned about Constitution Week. It was set up by Ronald Regan to celebrate the adoption of the United States Constitution and to serve as a time to remember what it stands for.  I Love America has a school week's worth of activities, finishing off with a class parade. We chose to do just some of the activities, but we read the story of Betsy Ross making the first flag, talked about the original colonies (Builder Boy remembered a lot from last year,) talked about the meaning of the colors, talked about the different flags throughout our county's history, the rules concerning the treatment of the flag, and more! There is also a hidden pictures page and a modern flag to color (I helped Early Bird with his.)

October's holiday in I Love America is Columbus Day and we'll be using I Love America to supplement the Holidays Around The Year when the day comes.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Slow and Steady: Week 5

For Age 0, Week 5 of Slow and Steady Get Me Ready the activities include introducing mirrors to your baby and pendulums.

The book recommends using an unbreakable baby mirror if you have one. I do, but after two boys playing with it over the years (as well as using it to bend light for a science lesson) its surface is so marked and scratched that the image is too distorted. So I held Lady Bug up to the bathroom mirror instead. She seemed more interested in the lights above the mirror, and didn't really respond to her own reflection. But she did seem to recognize me, which was nice. I took a "selfie" of us since I'm trying to be in more pictures this year.

For the pendulum activity I used the pvc pipe baby gym we made last week. I put the rattle and the spool to the sides and tried just swinging the foil circle side to side. Lady Bug was not interested at this time, though she has been enjoying the baby gym for a few minutes at a time this week.

This is a reminder that just because an activity is in a certain week it doesn't mean that an individual child is going to be ready to participate that week. For example, Lady Bug wouldn't follow a rattle with her eyes, a Week 3 activity, until after we'd been trying every other day or so for two weeks. She also took about two weeks before she was interested in following the flashlight light on the wall from Week 2. That is one of the reasons why the author reminds you at the end of each week (so far) to continue doing the activities.

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

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

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Citizenship Day

September 17th is Citizenship Day, and I almost forgot! It's not a common holiday so I guess that can be forgiven. Also, we're not back to doing school on a regular basis, either. Citizenship Day is the second holiday out of our Holidays Around The Year book that we will be celebrating this month. (Other options presented in the book that we're not doing this year include Hispanic Heritage Month, High Holy Days, Feast of San Gennaro, and Confucius' Birthday.)

Because I forgot about it until today, I did not get a book out of the library. But looking at the recommended book list I realized I already own one of the books! It's The Pledge of Allegiance and I had picked it up at a thrift store because of it's beautiful pictures illustrating the meaning of the words in a way that kids would understand.

So to "celebrate" Citizenship Day (the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution) we talked about what it means to be a citizen rather than a visitor, using a home as a metaphor. We talked about the things we are responsible for, like paying the bills and keeping the house clean, that people who visit us don't have to do. But both have to follow the rules!

We also talked about why we are so happy we are citizens of America instead of being born in another country (focusing on religious freedoms) and then talked a little about the citizenship process. The book comes with a sample of the citizenship test, but we didn't do it this year. Scholastic.com offers a plan and resources on Immigration and Citizenship for classrooms (for free) that can be adapted to a homeschool set up.

We finished up with reading the book again and practicing saying the pledge without it. The week of Citizenship Day is also Constitution Week. We're going to learn more about the American flag using our I Love America curriculum. (Sadly, it's out of print but you can still get it used on Amazon.com.)

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The e-book version of Holidays Around the Year is available at the Scholastic website, the picture is a link to the listing on Amazon.com.

For older students, here's a link to a great 12 minute video about American Exceptionalism. (Another way to explain why it's great to be an American citizen.)

Introducing Sandbox to Socrates

I am very excited to announce the launch of a blog magazine that I have had a small part in helping create. From Sandbox to Socrates was created by a group of homeschooling moms who've only met online but wanted to contribute to homeschoolers of the world with our ideas and our experience using a classical model, with varying styles, to homeschool our kids. We've got a large group to draw from so there will be things about babies all the way to graduates. I will occasionally be guest posting over there (once we're back to actually doing schoolwork and I have something to blog about.) It's a new site so it's a small site with vision to grow and enough contributors to keep it in new content so check it out!


I was also reminded yesterday that Sceleratus Classical Academy has a Facebook page! Right now it's not very big, but if there's enough interest I'd like to grow it.

And coming up on Friday I'm going to have a special collaborative blog post about deciding about having more children after a NICU preemie baby experience. I will also be posting my first poll and asking for feedback, so stay tuned!


Monday, September 16, 2013

Buy Yourself Something Pretty

As parents, and especially mothers, we sacrifice a lot for our children. Which is loving and wonderful, except sometimes we do it to the point of neglecting our own needs. And when we do that we put ourselves in a condition that affects our mood and can degrade the quality of our time spent with our kids.

Sometimes we need to be a little more "selfish" for the good of our kids. And if you're like me you need to be reminded of this and sometimes be given permission to do this.

Here is my personal example:
As my regular readers know, this year I did two very big, money-sucking things; my family moved to another state and I survived a very difficult pregnancy. The whole of 2013 has been emotionally, physically, and financially draining. We're short on enthusiasm, energy, and cash. Which is why I spent the money my mother gave me for my birthday on things we needed for the baby.

A few weeks ago I actually won a blog raffle (plugging IrishMum's homeschooling blog AirSkull) for a $25 Amazon gift card. I saw myself having three choices: spend it on things for homeschool, buy things we need for the baby, or spend it on myself. I have a wonderful group of internet mom friends who convinced me to spend it on myself. I chose to buy something I'd had in my Amazon wishlist for a long time but haven't purchased because I didn't consider it necessary or practical: a Raw Edge Tiered Ribbon Gypsy Boho Long Cotton Skirt . I got it in the mail this week and I LOVE it! This skirt makes me feel like Cinderella; and that's coming from someone who wears a skirt every day! Wearing it puts a spring in my step, makes me smile, and causes a tendency to randomly twirl. Best of all this small indulgence made me feel rich and beautiful.

Picture taken by Builder Boy
Now for you, your pretty thing might not be a skirt. It might be something you wear, something you decorate your house with, something that smells nice, maybe even something that most people wouldn't find all that attractive. The point is to find something that is just for you and makes you smile. Something you will use or see on a regular basis that when you see it gives you a brief rest of spirit and a reminder that you are worth something special now and again. Which can really raise your spirits when circumstances won't let you sleep.

So I'm giving you permission like my friends gave me: buy yourself something that will make you happy. (No, this does not make you materialistic.) Spend a little something on yourself so you can be a happier parent for the offspring you are sacrificing for. You are worth it, and it's good for them, too.


This post is part of a Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Blog Hop

Click here for the rest of the Blog Hop contributions.
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I promise this post is not just an ad or an excuse to get you to click on my Amazon affiliate links. I included the links because when I posted the picture of me in the skirt on facebook I got a lot of people asking me where I got it. The skirt is also available in a somewhat shorter version. (Just trying to be helpful!)


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Someone To Take the Picture

I have literally 1,000's of pictures of my kids, starting from when Builder Boy was a baby. (Don't you love digital cameras?) I have 100's of pictures of my husband with our kids. I have very few of me with the kids, and even fewer of my husband and I together or together with our kids.

I've read several mommy blog posts and articles about moms needing to remember to have their pictures taken, too, and not being forgotten, unmemorialized. We're encouraged to have our picture taken even when our hair isn't perfect and we're wearing ratty clothes. That's a nice thought except....who's going to take the picture? When stuff is going on during the daytime, I'm the only one here to take pictures. I suppose I could always teach Builder Boy how to take my picture. But that still doesn't give us a picture of us as a family.

So I came up with the perfect answer: church. I'm guaranteed to be presentable at church and there are lots of people who we can have take a picture of all five of us. So using my blog as accountability to get me in the habit of having my picture taken, I am going to have a picture taken of our whole family every Sunday we go to church for a year and post them on here. I'm going to call it "Smile!" Sunday.

Here's our first picture:

Friday, September 13, 2013

Pill Bug Observations


Shieldy is on the tip of the stick.

This is Shieldy, Early Bird's roly poly pet for an hour. His name is "Shield-y" because he has an armored body. Early Bird came up with the name. He was actually trying to "hug" Shieldy by holding him up to his cheek, so I decided maybe we should make Shieldy a habitat that Early Bird could hold. This made him very observable, so we decided to do an impromptu nature lesson. (I love homeschooling!)





We made observations, named the category of the creature, used tools, and recorded information, just like we learned last summer when we went through Learning to Be a Scientist. After making observations and talking about pill bugs I had Early Bird draw a picture of Shieldy. We had a difficult time counting his legs, so we got the Pill Bug/Roly Poly card from the Insects and small critters full color flash cards that I found last year at Target in the $1 aisle. We learned that pill bugs are isopods, have 7 pairs of legs, 2 pairs of antennae, and have gills! We read about their habitat and diet and we tried to replicate the ideal home for Shieldy in the glass jar. This was a good time to review with Early Bird that animals need food, water, and air to live.


"This is a good home for Shieldy."
Then, once we had learned what we could, we released Shieldy back into "the wild" aka our backyard. We used the information we had learned to try to put him back where he would be most happy.

For more fun there is a Roly Poly game on PBSKids.org in the Sid the Science Kid area.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Slow and Steady: Week 4

For Age 0, Week 4 of Slow and Steady Get Me Ready the idea is to build a "baby gym" attached to the crib rails. But Lady Bug isn't sleeping in a crib right now (we're doing a mix of co-sleeping and using the Fisher-Price Newborn Rock 'N Play Sleeper) so we don't even have a crib. And I'm not sure how I would attach the string to a Pack 'n Play/playpen. So I walked around the house trying to figure out what I could use to suspend the objects over my baby using household items when I stepped on my answer: pvc pipe! I realize it's not exactly a common household item, but it's very inexpensive. I borrowed the pieces I used to make this from Builder Boy's PVC Building Set that I made for his 6th birthday. If you are cutting the pipes for the first time (ours are 1/2 in pipes) you might want to make the dimensions differently. I just worked with what we already had.

Day 1 of the activity you hang a red (or hot pink!) spool and let it swing. I chose to tie it low enough that Lady Bug could hit it with her hand if she wanted to. She did end up hitting it several times; mostly just by getting excited and flailing about. She followed the swinging spool with her eyes and head and really seemed to like it; she even smiled! This kept her entertained (and her brothers who wanted to "help") for over 10 minutes.


Day 2 has you add a plastic lid that has been covered with foil. I used a circle of cardboard instead. Lady Bug didn't seem as interested in the baby gym that day as she did the day before.

Day 3 has you add a bell or rattle. This is used to demonstrate some items not making noises when moving, and one that does. I did not have any bells (that I could find. I'm still only half unpacked from the move.) I tried making a rattle out of a plastic spice container and beans, but it didn't make any sound when it swung; only when it was shaken. So I attached a rattle I had bought, but it doesn't make sounds when it's swinging, either!

Lady Bug was not in the mood to play with it this morning. We'll try again later.

We are are still doing the stretches and touching from Week 1 every day and once every few days try to do Week 2 and Week 3.




Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Teaching 9/11

Teaching about holidays is one of our homeschool gaps. Besides Christmas and Easter we haven't discussed or taught our kids much beyond mentioning "oh, yeah, today's Valentine's Day" or "what do you want to dress up as for Halloween?" I really want to remedy that. I got discouraged last year when I picked up the Hurray for Today book and found a lack of actual facts, invented facts, and a completely anti-God viewpoint. This year when I was looking through the dollar deals I found The Scholastic Big Book Of Holidays Around The Year. Their brief explanation of the different faiths that holidays come from is respectful and much better than pretending that none of these holidays came from any religious observance.

The book is written for teachers of regular sized classrooms, and is adaptable for any elementary aged child. It gives a brief summary of the origins of each holiday, the meaning of it's symbols, and some activity ideas as well as several books recommendations. They cover all the major holidays, all of the national and minor holidays, and even add in some that I had never heard of, including celebrating the birth of Confucius and Hispanic Heritage Month. We're not going to do every single holiday in the book this year. But we will be using it through the year, possibly for several years in a row.

The first holiday we will cover (skipping over Labor Day and Kite Festival) is September 11. I was initially surprised that it was included in this book, but I think it very right that they did. The events on September 11, 2001 are not something I had told my kids about before. But I think the kids are ready to hear the general details now. First I told them that 12 years ago some bad people hurt a lot of people in New York City and that I was going to show them a video about it. I showed them the Brain Pop video explaining what happened and why. I think it was an excellent, child appropriate video. (I previewed it ahead of time.) After we watched it was talked a little bit about it and I told them how I found out about it when it was happening.

While searching online for resources for teaching about 9/11 I found a teacher's website that put an emphasis on appreciating the volunteers and rescue workers.That gave me the idea to make cards thanking our local firefighters for their service. I don't know when we'll get them to our local station; probably this weekend.

videoThen Builder Boy made a video thanking all the firemen (and women) in America for keeping us safe. (He improvised it all on his own.) So to all the "fire rescuers" (as Early Bird puts it,) 


Thank You for your service and sacrifice. Thank you for working so hard to keep us safe. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13


More resources: http://teachinghistory.org/spotlight/september11
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The e-book is available at the Scholastic website and as of September 11th was still $1.
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