Friday, September 26, 2008

My Pet Project

These are the bookshelves in our schoolroom, and I think I am done loading least for this school year!  

I have booklists for every year through Year 6 printed out, so I know what I'm looking for and can shop one "find" at a time.  I LOVE finding old books in used bookstores, but Clarksville (which, for those of you familiar with Oregon, is about the size of Salem) only has ONE used bookstore, and she deals only in paperback fluff.  Sad, isn't it?  Thankfully, I also LOVE a challenge!  :)  

Now, these are just the books we'll be using for school!  (Except, obviously, for the shelf of photo albums, the shelf of "free" reading, and the shelf of Isaak's books.)  The girls have a bookcase of kids books in their room, and Mike and I have three bookcases full of "big people books", too.

I'm going to need some more bookcases.  :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cookin' and Cleanin'

This was what my kitchen looked like around 4:45 this afternoon:
(Isaak was "helping" me take the pictures.)

I had my doubts about whether or not Jaela and Macey could safely handle raw chicken, but they did very well, and I was pleasantly surprised!  This might become one of my favorite meals...because I (kind of) didn't have to cook!  :)

I later pondered the wisdom of letting a sick little girl wash the dishes...but she had so much fun that a few germs might be worth it!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

(Sigh.) Yes, we homeschool!

Today we stopped at Walmart on the way home from CHET (Center for Homeschool Enrichment and Tutorial), where I teach Spanish and Jaela, Macey, and Anya take Spanish, Sign Language, and Art.  Whenever we go to Walmart, the girls get those little jugs of chocolate milk to go with their lunch or snack, and they ALWAYS ask the checker to "hand it right back to me, please".  The checkers always seem to find this amusing, and usually comply with smiles on their faces.

Today was no different, up to that point.  After a reminder to say "Thank you", this conversation followed:

J, M, and A:  ¡Gracias!
Me (quietly):  In English, please.
J and A:  Thank you!
Checker:  You're welcome.
M:  Shucran!  (Arabic)
Me (still quietly, but with a LOOK):  IN ENGLISH.
M:  (only slightly subdued)  Thank you.
Checker (after a brief pause):  Was that German?
Me:  No, first Spanish, then Arabic.
Checker:  Oh.  (Longer pause)  Do you homeschool?

Sigh.  Don't other people's six-year-olds pick up Arabic words and phrases from their dads?!?  

Yes, we homeschool!

Friday, September 19, 2008

They ARE listening!

Just before we started school this year, I found a verse in Jeremiah that I returned to for encouragement almost every day for a few weeks straight.  God is talking to Jeremiah about the people of Israel and Judah:

"They turned their backs to me and not their faces; though I taught them again and again, they would not listen or respond to discipline."  Jeremiah 32:33 

God had the same problem with his children that I have with mine!  But He didn't give up, and taught them again and again.  I try to remember that when I find myself saying the same thing over and over and over again to my kids.  And eventually the lesson sinks in!  I wasn't paying much attention to the girls this morning as they were playing, but I tuned in just in time to hear Jaela say to Macey and Anya:  "Hey guys!  Let's pick up this big mess before we start our next project!"

There IS hope!  :)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Especially the Stories! (Part 2)

Have you ever worked really hard, thrown all your energy and efforts into something, and then when you were done (finally done!), scrapped it all and started over?  That's the story of my spring, summer and fall this year.  I began in early May; researching, reading reviews, pricing and choosing curricula, and then haunting ebay, amazon, and cbd (Christian Book Distributors) for the absolute best deals on the curricula I had chosen for 1st Grade and Kindergarden.  Once I had ordered everything, and it had all finally arrived, I spent most of the summer planning out lesson plans, projects, and worksheets for every subject.  Every day  -- at naptime, late into the night, and every spare minute I had during the day -- I worked on typing out 180 pages of daily lesson plans that combined the plans for each subject all onto one page per day.  When she visited in July, I enlisted mom's help so I could get them done before school started on August 11.  (She's a much faster typist than I am!)  Everything was finally finished, printed out, and ready to go with a week to spare.  Over three months of planning and prepping had gone into those lesson plans, and I was as prepared and organized as I was ever going to be.

Three weeks into our school year, I scrapped everything ... and started over.

Somewhere toward the beginning of my research, an article in a homeschooling magazine called, "What's So GREAT About Shakespeare?" by Linda Johnson, caught my attention.  I was so impressed with the article that I (somehow!) found and began to read her blog.  She talks a lot about Charlotte Mason (who is called the founder of the homeschooling movement) and the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling.  She uses words  like "living books", "narration", and "copywork".  Her kids study nature, great composers and their works, master artists and their art.  They do math, copywork and dictation (handwriting, spelling and grammar), and make useful craft projects.  They (both the kids, and the whole family) read a LOT of books, and they compile very detailed notebooks of what they're learning in history, geography, literature, and poetry.   

Which is all very neat and exciting, I thought, and I would love to put some of those things into practice in our homeschool someday, but I was going to stick with what I had planned for this year, thank you very much, and then maybe, MAYBE I'd start incorporating some of those ideas into my lesson plans next year.  So, to prepare, I read her blog all summer and filed away a whole bunch of neat ideas and how-tos.  I read other people's articles online about different homeschool methods and programs.  I read Elisabeth Elliott books in my spare time, and I read my Bible.  And my thoughts kept returning to quotes I had read online from Charlotte Mason's books that intrigued me greatly, so I started reading Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling Series too, and at some point, without me realizing it, my thinking began to change.  

Where is it written that we should dread each school day?  WHY do we dread it?  Are the kids as bored as I am with what we're learning?  Who determines what and how I teach my children?  What SHOULD our homeschool be like?  As these thoughts and others chased each other around in my brain, I began to realize that although we had decided to homeschool for the right reasons, I, at least (I can't speak for Mike), had not yet determined how to best educate my children.

After only three weeks of school, we were all disenchanted with those oh-so-detailed lesson plans.  The girls fly through their weekly memory verse.  The Bible curriculum was dumbed-down, and left out important details.  The handwriting worksheets were tedious and boring.  The accelerated math program...well, let's just say we're backing up a little on that subject :).  Their phonics workbooks are so easy and quick they could probably do them in their sleep.  The science was a little above their comprehension level.  Reading and Spanish are just fun; new and exciting.  :)  Geography, history, literature, and poetry, on the other hand, were, and still are, greeted with excitement and eagerness, BECAUSE (drum roll, please!) we read books and stories, both fiction and non-fiction.  What child does not enjoy being read to (especially when the subject is something they are interested in) or even reading something themselves for the first time?  In the first six weeks of school, we've read about Creation, the Nile River, the Rosetta Stone, hieroglyphics, Egypt, birds, animals, maps, globes, hemispheres, oceans, and continents.  We've been introduced to Adam and Eve, Menes (the first Pharaoh), Leif Ericsson, Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci, John Cabot, Captain John Smith, Jamestown, Pocahontas, and others.  We've read from Shakespeare, Aesop's Fables, the Bible, Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses, Grimm's Fairy Tales, Rudyard Kipling, and James Herriot.  What's not to like?!?

That's the kind of thing that Charlotte Mason advocates; reading REAL books on all subjects, reading thought-provoking literature and poetry, and TALKING about what we're learning.  It is nothing but an exercise in futility for my children to trace out and copy letter after letter on a handwriting worksheet (which will eventually get thrown out), when as an alternative they could be practicing their handwriting skills as they copy a verse, a quote, or a line from a hymn into a special book (that they could keep forever if they want!), or maybe they could even write a letter!  Wouldn't it be wonderful, too, to read to my children from ACTUAL scripture instead of from an infantile Bible curriculum?

We still need the math program and the phonics practice workbooks, but I am determined to implement more and more of those lofty ideas of Charlotte Mason's into our school days.  In the last three weeks we have slowly added in more literature, poetry, and history readings than I had previously planned, and slowly phased out of most of the worksheets and fluff.  This new way of doing things has so far been so successful and satisfying that I have not looked back at those slaved-over and now-rejected lesson plans; instead, I keep discovering little assurances that this is the right choice for us and our homeschool right now.  

Take this morning, for instance.  Last night I came across a quote (Charlotte Mason, of course!) that I thought the girls would enjoy.  I paraphrased it (she wrote in the late 1800's - early 1900's, which is a little above the girls' reading level...for now!) and wrote it out on our whiteboard for them to see.  They didn't say anything about it, but when I came upstairs to start school, I found that Macey had copied it on a sheet of paper, illustrated it appropriately, and left it for me to find.  

THAT'S what I want our homeschool to be like.  I want them to enjoy what they do, see for themselves, take the initiative, understand, and to learn to LOVE to read, and listen to, books and stories! 

Especially the stories!  :)

Monday, September 15, 2008


Jaela, Macey, and Anya got haircuts after naptime today!  They turned out SO cute -- even Daddy is impressed.  :)  We've been planning it for over a month, and today was finally the day!  Their hair was getting SO long, and it was broken in so many different lengths that we really couldn't put it off any longer.  They were getting pretty tired of the tangles and snarls too.  They wanted to wait to tell anyone that we had done it, and just surprise their Grandmas and Grandpas when they come next, but I didn't think the secret would keep that long.  (Can you imagine me not posting ANY pictures in the next few weeks?!?)  So we compromised and agreed to post a picture of their new haircuts, and "spring" the surprise this way.  :)

Jaela went first, then Macey, and then Anya.  By the time Anya was finished, Jaela had decided that she wanted her hair a little bit shorter ("as short as Macey's, Mommy!"), so she hopped back on the stool for round two.  The really amazing parts are that:
1) all three girls slept for almost 2 hours before we started, and then 
2) I (yes, I!) 
3) STILL managed to finish cutting everyone's hair BEFORE Isaak woke up from his (almost 3 hour) nap!

What a day!  :)

Especially the Stories!

We made an extra effort today to get to the commissary early, hoping to avoid the payday crowds and lines.  (We failed -- got there early, but didn't avoid the crowds and lines!)  We left home right after breakfast and I planned to start school as soon as we got home.  Our grocery list was mercifully shorter than usual, and as we were finishing up, Macey asked about our lunch plans.  (They usually get a little jug of chocolate milk for their treat on commissary days, and I get a package of fresh sushi.  It's my reward to myself for braving the commissary ... especially on paydays!)  <><

M:  Mommy, can we buy chocolate milk for our lunches?
Me:  No, but you can buy some for morning snack.
M:  Snack?!?  Is it really only snack time?
Me (checking my watch):  Yep, really only snack time.
J:  So are we still going to do school this morning?
Me:  Just as soon as we get home.
J, M, and A (in unison):  Yay!!!!!!!
Me (pretending to be surprised):  You LIKE school?
A:  Yes!  I especially like Math.  And school is so fun, it's like playing all the time!
M:  MY favorite parts are the stories!
J:  And the coloring!

And my favorite part is having kids who actually look forward to school!  :)  More on that subject in another post...  :)

A Broken Watch

My watch died a few weeks ago.  It was upsetting at the time, partly because I feel naked without it, and partly because I think that if you pay THAT much for a watch it should last longer than two years.  So I bought a cheap replacement watch, and consigned my old one to the girls' collection of dress-up jewelry.  Nothing earth-shattering, I thought, but I discovered that it's fairly exciting for a four-year-old.

Anya's letter to Grandma (sorry, Grandma, it's not making it past Mommy's keepsake pile to the mailbox!):
(We got an old watch from Mom and it's [a] broken watch)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Was it worth it?

After school this morning and a quick trip to Walmart for some pint canning jars, we started processing our 40 pounds of tomatoes.  Jaela twisted the stems off and inspected them, Macey dunked them in water and rubbed them clean, and I cored them and divided them into two pots and two piles.  Jaela and Macey then squished them into pulp with their hands, and I put the tomatoes on the stove to cook.  Anya entertained Isaak.  :)  

Two batches later, I strained the juice out and pureed the pulp, seeds, and skin in the food processor.  I ended up with 6 quarts of juice (for soup), 2 pints of pulp puree (for pizza sauce), and 4 quarts of equal parts juice and puree (for spaghetti sauce).  

Right about then, I decided to quit following the recipe I was using.  :)

I used my JOY OF COOKING cookbook and the label from one of our favorite tomato soups to come up with a recipe for the soup.  Mike came home in the middle of everything, and we adjusted spices and seasonings for the pizza sauce and spaghetti sauce by taste.

I simmered the soup for a LONG time to condense it a little and boost the flavor, so I canned the pizza sauce and spaghetti sauce first, while the soup was still cooking.  After I filled the canner, I made pizza for dinner (should have saved out some sauce to use, but I didn't think of it in time!).  Then after dinner, I finished cleaning up the kitchen while the soup was in the canner.

We started washing the tomatoes at 11:00 a.m. and I took the soup out of the canner at 8:30 p.m., so now the question is, was it worth it?  I'll let you know. 


Overheard in the car, as they were taking the price tags off of their new shoes:

Macey:  I got mine off!
Jaela:  Me too!
Anya:  I'm having trouble with mine.  I'll take off my glasses so I can see more better.

Monday, September 8, 2008

"KEN-tuck" explained

Mike has been reading a story to the girls at bedtime about Daniel Boone, and lately, the Boone family has been talking about venturing into new territory...KEN-tuck country.  So, of course, Kentucky is now called KEN-tuck in the D. household.

Meandering Monday

After school this morning, we loaded up and headed out to a Mennonite farm in Kentucky that grows and sells THE best hydroponic tomatoes.  After we left there (loaded with tomatoes...and okra, although I have NO idea what to do with it -- she gave it to me cheap because I told her I was experimenting with it, and SHE had no idea what to do with it either!), we stopped at another (absolutely BEAUTIFUL) farm's little produce stand and picked up some squash, eggplant, peppers, and sweet potatoes as well as the pickles the girls begged for -- how could I resist?  I also got them some pickled beets.  :)

And then we went to the commissary.  Talk about culture shock!  We went from being closer to the immodestly dressed, liberal end of the spectrum to being closer to the oddly over-dressed, strangely conservative end of the spectrum in less than half an hour and about 10 miles.

It was a wonderful, thought-provoking adventure -- and we all learned a lot too!  We learned about bees, horses, and a little about life as a farming family.  We learned about vegetables, politeness, and the vast variety of southern accents.  (Ever heard English spoken with a German accent strongly, well, accented with a southern drawl?  It's an adventure in linguistics all on its own!)  And last, but not least, we learned that we can live in Tennessee but still be close enough to "KEN-tuck" (there's a story behind that!) to go there, at least according to Anya, "any time we want to!"

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Start 'em young!

Anya doing some early morning Arabic studies, at 11 1/2 months.

Isaak, also still in jammies, brushing up on his Arabic at 15 1/2 months.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Toddlerhood has its perks!

On Labor Day, since I had to lower the mattress to the lowest position anyway, I converted Isaak's crib to a toddler bed.  He loves it.  I don't, because it means that my baby really is growing up.

He chooses his own clothes in the mornings.
He uses a spoon or fork to eat with, and reminds us if we forget to give him one.
He puts things away when we ask him to, and sometimes when we don't.
He goes down the stairs faster than any of us.  
When he goes upstairs, he always closes the gate at the top of the stairs behind him.
He sorts dirty laundry like a pro, and he has the starting-the-dishwasher routine down pat.
He puts all his toys in the toy-box at bedtime.
And he sleeps for almost 12 hours straight at night.

Maybe having a toddler is a good thing, after all!  :)

The Tooth Fairy Saga Continues

Jaela lost her second front tooth yesterday morning -- well, more accurately, she had Macey pull it out for her.  Which inspired even more discussion and questions about the Tooth Fairy.  Someday, when they finally figure it out, I am going to enjoy SO MUCH being able to say that I have always told them the truth about the Tooth Fairy.  :)

For example, when Jaela lost the last tooth, they asked if I had seen the Tooth Fairy, because they figured out that she came while Mike and I were still up.  I told them no, but I saw her shadow.  (They have a bright nightlight that casts some pretty awesome shadows at night.)

We have also discussed (ad nauseum!) that sometimes the Tooth Fairy wears dresses (but NOT rainbow ones, sorry Macey!), every Tooth Fairy looks different, the Tooth Fairies that visited Mommy and Daddy were not the same one, and that the Tooth Fairy that visits them is not the same one that visited Mommy or Daddy.  Every family has their own Tooth Fairy, and she lives in their house with them, and Jaela, Macey, Anya and Isaak's Tooth Fairy's kids will be the Tooth Fairies for Jaela, Macey, Anya and Isaak's kids.  And on and on and on and on.

They have spent hours in the last few weeks plotting out elaborate plans of how to catch the Tooth Fairy at work, and see what she looks like.  Yesterday they asked me if the Tooth Fairy was going to come at nap time. 

Me: No, the Tooth Fairy only comes at night.  She's too busy during the day.
M:  What does she do all day?
Me:  I don't think I can tell you that, or you'll figure out how to catch her for sure.
M, J, A:  Pleeeaase, Mommy?
Me (finally giving in):  OK, I'll tell you.  She does her Tooth Fairy laundry, cleans her Tooth Fairy house, and teaches her Tooth Fairy kids.
J:  Ooh!  Thank you, Mommy!
M: Now we know where to look for her!

They spent the next 30 minutes running around the house, looking in every corner and hiding place they could think of, calling, "Tooth Fairy, where are you?  Are you cleaning?"  Eventually they gave up, and went to go make a place for the Tooth Fairy to live in their dollhouse.  :)  

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

In the Middle of the Night

4:54 a.m.

I woke up to the sounds of talking and giggling from the girls room.  Nothing unusual, except that it was not quite 5:00 in the morning, and it was still dark outside!  So, I headed upstairs to remind them that they are not allowed to get up until their clock says 7:00 or later.  And what a sight met my disbelieving eyes!

They were fully dressed.  Their hair was brushed.  Their beds were made.  And they were all sitting on Jaela's bed reading together.  At 4:54 in the morning.

When they finally noticed me, it got really quiet.

Me:  What on earth  are you doing?  It is still dark outside, and your clock does NOT say 7:00!
Anya:  Daddy woke me up and I couldn't go back to sleep.
Jaela:  Daddy said it was early in the morning.

I got suspicious.

Me: Have you been up since Daddy got home?
Macey: Yes.

Oh boy.  Mike flew late last night, and got home at 2:45 a.m.

I made them get back into their beds and told them to go back to sleep, and NOT to get up or even talk until that clock said 7:00.

They obeyed, with a minimum of protest, but it's going to be a long day!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Oh! This is going to be FUN!

I just started reading Home Education Training and educating children under nine, Volume 1 of Charlotte Mason's 6 volume series on homeschooling and education.  I'm only into the Preface, and I am already finding gems!

"A discontent, is it a divine discontent? is upon us; and assuredly we should hail a workable, effectual philosophy of education as a deliverance from much perplexity."

You're Gonna Miss This

The first time I heard this song was at the Grand Ole Opry.  I had a very sleepy Isaak on my lap --who complained every time the music stopped :) -- and Trace Adkins came out and sang a few songs.  When he sang this one, I bawled like a baby...and I still get all teary-eyed every time I hear it!

Trace Adkins -- You're Gonna Miss This
She was staring out the window of their SUV
Complaining, saying "I can't wait to turn 18"
She said "I'll make my own money, and I'll make my own rules"
Mama put the car in park out there in front of the school
Then she kissed her head and said "I was just like you"

You're gonna miss this
You're gonna want this back
You're gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast
These are some good times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you're gonna miss this

Before she knows it she's a brand new bride
In a one-bedroom apartment, and her daddy stops by
He tells her "It's a nice place"
She says "It'll do for now"
Starts talking about babies and buying a house
Daddy shakes his head and says "Baby, just slow down"

Cause you're gonna miss this
You're gonna want this back
You're gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast
These are some good times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you're gonna miss this

Five years later there's a plumber workin' on the water heater
Dog's barkin', phone's ringin'
One kid's cryin', one kid's screamin'
And she keeps apologizin'
He says "They don't bother me. 
I've got 2 babies of my own. 
One's 36, one's 23.
Huh, it's hard to believe, but...

You're gonna miss this
You're gonna want this back
You're gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast
These are some good times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you're gonna miss this"

I listened to this today in the car on the way home from Walmart...the timing could not have been more perfect.  SOMEDAY, I will miss having a four-year-old who out of the blue, pipes up and proclaims loudly in the checkout line at Walmart, "Mommy, I still don't like touching Mommy's underwear."

Yes, she did.  

And only she, Jaela, Macey, and I knew she was referring to our shared chore of sorting out each person's clean laundry into piles.  Which we haven't done for months.  (Because I found it to be quicker and easier to just sort the laundry straight out of the dryer into baskets and give them each their own basket full of laundry to fold and put away.)  

Did I mention it was completely out of the blue?  :)

Someday, I'm gonna miss this! 

Keeping the Tooth Fairy busy

Macey lost her front tooth two days after Jaela did -- the same one!