Saturday, January 30, 2010

Snow Denial

More snow. Sigh. There is a snow shovel and a pair of gloves in my very near future. But for the moment I am in snow denial. Maybe if I just don't look at that thick blanket of freshly fallen, unflavored Slurpee stuff laying all over my car and driveway it will disappear all by itself. Ya think? Is there some loop hole in the laws of physics that I can exploit to avoid the snow shovel? No? Drat.

And to make matters worse, wouldn't you just know that there's a life lesson buried in the midst of all this cold white stuff falling from the sky. Here's a tip for any of my fellow Californians who may one day find themselves on the opposite coast...if you don't shovel the snow the same day it falls it will freeze overnight and turn to ice. And guess what, shoveling ice is way harder than shoveling freshly fallen snow. How do I know this interesting bit of weather related knowledge? Because I have in fact shoveled ice. And it was a back breaking, frustration inducing bummer.

So what is our life lesson for the day? If we don't deal with a problem when it first presents itself, not only will it not go away, it will freeze and turn into a bigger problem. It can be a problem that comes upon us, perhaps a health issue, or a broken relationship, or it can be a problem that comes from within, perhaps a secret sin or bitterness or anger that we are holding in our hearts. The longer we let it go, the harder it will be to clean up.

So for all of my current snow denial, I will indeed be outside in my jacket, cap, scarf and gloves making a path for the mini-van to escape our driveway. That's right, I'm bundling up like the Michelin Man...I have every intention of sacrificing my pride to keep warm.

Here's hoping you have a snow free weekend...or if that fails, then here's hoping that you find an enterprising teenager to do the shoveling for you.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Light Bulb Moments

There are many things I've decided that I like about homeschooling. I like that our mornings are less rushed. No more breakfast in the car as we drive frantically to school. No more late night runs to Michael's to grab pipe cleaners or clay for a project due the next day. No more cleaning mashed up peanut butter sandwich leftovers in the lunchbox. All good things. But I've decided that my very favorite part of homeschooling are the light bulb moments. Those moments when suddenly everything clicks in Ella's mind and she understands something new. That's the best.

Earlier this week we were studying the Exodus and while I was reading the Bible passage describing the Passover, Ella suddenly stopped and said, "Oh Mommy! It's Pass Over. You know, the angel passed over the houses of the Israelites." For a 7 year old, that was a big moment of religious was a high wattage light bulb moment. Kind of like when she got the concept of carrying numbers in addition. Another big, bright light.

Those moments are invigorating and encouraging and joyful. And that's just me. I'm sure Ella's a fan too.

I've struggled this past month with not having a benchmark to measure Ella's progress do I know she's learning enough? Is she keeping up with her grade level? Is she falling behind? Am I teaching the right things? But then suddenly that light bulb will flip on and for one brief moment I can see clearly that we're both doing just fine.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

It's a New Day

Yesterday was not a good day. There was just nothing to say in the midst of the colossal pile of ickiness that was yesterday. If I had written a post yesterday it would have probably looked like this:


So in the interest of sparing you, my faithful readers, from such a travesty of the written word, I hid from my computer instead.

Nothing horrible happened, there wasn't a major tragedy or natural disaster and I didn't run out of my secret chocolate stash. It was just a build up of one thing after another until I thought my head was going to explode.

But, today is a better day. And looking back on yesterday, I have been thinking about how the enemy of our faith sometimes slithers in like a snake. There are times in the Bible when Satan is described as a roaring lion, when he gets right in the face of our faith and tries to terrify us into doubt and disbelief. But he is also described as a sneaky snake. He slithers in with whispers of half-truths and plants seeds that we may not even notice until they've sprouted into thorny vines choking our hearts.

Yesterday was a snake day. It was a little thing here, a little thing there, one stress adding to another until I was bogged down in a mess of confusion, fear, doubt and anger.

Praise God for new days. Today I get to start over. No matter how bad our yesterdays were, they are already past. And if we made it through the night, then we made it through the trial and we can stand in the light of a new day.

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

There's a Storm Coming

Ayah, there's a storm a brewin'. Could be a big one, best board up the windows. That's my grizzled Maine sailor accent, complete with slicker and pipe. Did you catch it? Yep, I can blog with an accent. Impressive, huh?

Aside from the fact that there really are storm clouds on the horizon outside my windows, I am speaking more of a metaphorical storm that is brewing on our homeschool horizon. I started something new this week with Ella and I'm not sure how it is going to turn out. Could be a really good thing. Could be a perfect storm of tears and whining that sinks our little fishing boat of home based education.

In an attempt to teach Ella to take more responsibility for her schoolwork and to end the "how much more do I have to do" line of questioning, this week I made a work card for Ella. It lists every subject she studies and every lesson she has to complete this week. I showed it to her and told her that she has to finish everything on the card but she can decide which lessons to do each day. She liked the idea and jumped right on board.

Now, after two days of work, she is right on track with her Bible lessons, completely done with her Explode the Code and writing assignments and halfway done with grammar and history. But, she's only done 1 math lesson (out of 6) and no science. Uh-oh. Friday could be an ugly, ugly day. I'm picturing 3 hours of math accompanied by a full orchestra of sighing, whining and begging.

But, that forecast is three days away. So check back often for updates, you never know when the weather will turn. Did I totally beat that metaphor into the ground? Ok, just checking. In the meantime, we'll stock up on supplies (chocolate and earplugs) and pray for sunshine. I mean actual sunshine this time. I'm so over rain.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Some Things Are Worth Paying For

As I believe in honesty and truthfulness and all that stuff, I have already shared with you, my faithful readers, that I have a thrifty side. I tend toward the frugal and budget conscious side of things. I have been known to splurge when the occasion calls for it, but most of the time you won't catch me paying retail price for anything. And apparently I am so cheap...uh, I mean financially sensitive...that I'd rather lose 2 hours of my life making something by hand than spend $10 to buy it.

How do I know this very interesting and very specific fact about myself? I just spent 2 hours making math flashcards for my darling Ella. Addition and subtraction. Double sided. Answers on one side, no answers on the reverse. Yep, that's 2 hours I will never get back.

I already had the blank index cards and a black Sharpie on hand so when I saw flash cards at a store known for its low prices priced at $3.00 a set I quickly decided that I'd rather save the cash and make them myself.

And guess what, somethings are worth buying. The cards are fine, they work, the answers are correct (I hope). But what a massive pain in the sitting part of my anatomy. After an hour or so, all the number started to fuzz together so I actually had to double check my answers a few times. And I still have to do the multiplication cards. And no I can't just go buy those cards because I already started the process so now I have to finish it or my mental health will be in jeopardy. Plus, this way all the cards will match. :)

Happy Monday!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Mother's Prayer

Dear Lord,

Father God, I love you and I thank you for my children. Thank you for giving them to me and for trusting me to raise them. Thank you Lord for their smiles and laughter, for the hugs and kisses and for every "I love you, Mommy." Thank you for the joy and innocence they have in their hearts, the wonder in their eyes and the dreams You have placed in their spirits.

Lord, help me to be the mother they deserve. Help me Lord to love them like You do. Bless me, I pray, with more patience and more understanding. Holy Spirit cover my mouth before I speak harshly to them. Savior God remind me to be forgiving just as You have forgiven me. Father, help me to always remember that they were Your children before they were mine and help me to treat them as sons and daughters of God.

Lord, let my words and my actions teach them about the love of Christ. Show me Lord how to give them a faith that is strong and stands firm in a world of compromise and temptation. Give me words Lord that will take root in their hearts and give them courage to do the right thing even when I am not around. Above all, Lord, help me to teach them to know You, rely on You and trust in You.

Increase my faith Lord, forgive me for my failings and strengthen me each day. "Teach me Your ways O Lord and I will walk in Your truth. Give me an undivided heart that I may fear Your name." (Ps. 86:11) Give me a right heart Lord, one devoted solely to You so I can be an example, a teacher, an encouragement and a godly mother to the children You have given me. I can't do it without You.

In the name of Jesus,

Friday, January 22, 2010

To Hover or Not To Hover

Ah, that is the question. To hover over Ella's shoulder and watch her work or to step away and let her do the work in her own way. Can you feel the pensive tide pulling us out to the deep end of the philosophical ocean? Don't worry I'm typing during Jack's nap time so it will be a short ride in the profound thoughts boat and then right back to shore.

During Ella's math lesson today she was completing her workbook pages and I caught myself standing over her shoulder stopping her every time she made a mistake. When she'd make a miscalculation, I'd immediately stop her and point out that contrary to what I think as a parent 1 (child) + 1 (child) does not equal 11 (even though it feels that way some days). Ok, her problems were more advanced than that, but you get my drift.

But after a few minutes of hover-mom, she started checking with me before she wrote down her answers. And that's not the way I want this to work. So I stepped away and let her finish the whole lesson before I checked her answers. And it got me thinking....where else have I been hovering in my kids' lives? Where else have I been so focused on them getting things right that I haven't left any room for them to make a mistake?

I know part of my job as their mom is to protect them and guide them and help them make the right choices, but eventually I have to let them actually make the choice. And...gulp...they may make the wrong one sometimes. I suddenly had a flash of insight that maybe, just maybe I have been trying too hard to make sure they always and only make the right choice or get the right answer. Because maybe, oh here it comes, maybe I am too worried about what their answers say about me.

Bam! That's a bright flash of light shining on an ugly truth. Here's the math on it: Ella's right answer = good mom = I'm a success. And conversely Ella's wrong answer = bad mom = I'm a failure. Is this making sense or is it just me?

So today I decided not to hover. I let Ella do the work. She got some of the answers right, she got some of them wrong. And the ones she got wrong, we sat down and fixed together.

You may now disembark the deep thoughts row boat and enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Best Thing Ever #1

Ok, yes I knew something hideous was going to hit today after the surprising success of yesterday's school-the-go adventure. But knowing it was coming didn't make it any easier to deal with the train wreck of whining and complaining that hit me right in the face this morning.

Soooo, instead of dwelling on my pulsing whine-grane headache and continuing to ponder the possibility that my children really have hatched a devious plot to drive me crazy with their ultra-sonic whine weapons, I am going to grab a handful of dark chocolate M&Ms and launch a new tradition here at my humble homeschool blog. My Best Thing Ever feature. Catchy huh? I figure since I'm learning as I go, I'd share the purchases, freebies or handmade goodies that are really helping me. See, I'm all about the greater good...even when I'm just typing so I can stay in total denial of the kid chaos threatening to erupt at any moment. Hmmmm...too much information?

Anyway, moving right along, here's the first installment. My first Best Thing Ever is...drum roll please...a white board. Ok, that's kind of a let down I'm sure. You were probably expecting something a little flashier, a little cooler, but let me tell you our white board has been a life saver. Best Thing Ever! For some reason understood only by children and grown men with short attention spans, lessons are much more interesting when done on a white board. Sure you can do the same thing with pencil and paper, and use the exact same words, but it's just better when written on a white board with colored pens.

So there you go, it's not pretty and it's not expensive (Praise the Lord!), but it's my first whole hearted homeschool recommendation. Other than chocolate...that's just a given.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

School On The Go

I have a funny feeling that today is just the first of many mobile schoolhouse days. I had to take my mini-van...yes, I have a mini-van. I used to drive a Camaro and now I have a mom-mobile. But it's totally tricked out (she says in a vainly trying to sound young & hip voice). I'm so old.

Anyway, this morning I had to take my sweet ride (complete with empty My Little Pony fruit chews wrappers and crushed Goldfish crackers permanently ground into the carpet fibers) to the mechanic to get the front brakes worked on. I was anticipating a few hours in the waiting room (and I was not disappointed) so I waltzed into the office looking like I was ready to set up camp. Purse, diaper bag, Ella's backpack, Jack's backpack, snack bag, bottled water, jackets...we were ready to make ourselves right at home.

And of course 30 seconds after I handed my keys to the mechanic who could have crushed my immediate financial future to bits, I was handing Ella her math book. And she was great about it. She curled up on the sofa and did her lesson. Jack was even really good coloring and playing with dinosaurs. Ella got through an entire math lesson and half of her reading book before she starting grumbling. By that time we only had 15 minutes or so before the van...I mean the sweet ride....was ready.

So our first school-on-the-go adventure was a success. I only forgot one thing, the number chart, and Ella managed without it. Gotta say, I'm feeling pretty good. Of course that probably means tomorrow is going to be a whole other kind of adventure. What can I say...I'm Irish. Our luck works that way.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

You Just Never Know

Today I took the kids to the ice rink for Ella's skating lesson. Aha! Another benefit to homeschooling...the rink is empty! No demolition derby of young ones wobbling around on skates. Anyway, I bumped into a mom that I met once before a few weeks ago. She's another military wife who homeschools her two kids. We met the first time when the hubby and I were still debating whether or not to start homeschooling.

The first time we met she mentioned that she homeschooled and assumed that I did too. We were actually in the rink during normal school hours so it was a fair guess. When I told her we were thinking about it but that I was still on the fence, she asked me what was holding me back. As we talked about it, she brought up a few points about homeschooling that I hadn't considered. And coming from another military wife, her words stuck with me and were even a part of the discussions that hubby and I had.

Anyway, when I saw her today I said hello and called her by name. She was floored that I actually remembered her name. I can't help it, I'm good with names. Not good with cars, computers or chaos but names I remember. I didn't put her on the spot and tell her what an impact her words had on me and our decision to homeschool. How's that for pressure from a relative stranger? "Hey, remember a few weeks ago when you said that thing? Well, we totally changed our lives and possibly our children's future and it's all because of you. So if it all goes south and ends in disaster we're going to blame you." Yeah, I decided against that conversation.

But it did get me thinking. We really have no way of knowing the impact our words and our attitudes can have on someone else. If she had been all negative or bummed out about homeschooling, I might have carried that memory into our decision making process and gone another way. I'm not saying we can't be honest when we're having bad days, but you just never know what's going on in another person's head. Maybe someone you meet is on the verge of making a big decision. Maybe that passing conversation is more than just small talk. And maybe, just maybe God has put you in that place at that time for a specific reason.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Holiday? What Holiday?

Don't yell at me, I'm only kidding. I know it's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. A day set aside to honor the life and work of a great man who truly understood justice, courage and walking out his Christian faith. His legacy is one that should never be ignored or taken for granted. But I'm still making the kids do schoolwork. If I had thought ahead I would have planned a history lesson on Dr. King for today. But I didn't. Sorry Dr. King.

See, I know it's a holiday. I'm not ignorant...I'm just mean. And I'm oddly ok with that.

Here's how I justify my mean Mommy-ness. I'm trying to get Ella caught up in her math. When we started homeschooling she was already behind in math so I started her at the beginning of a second grade curriculum. And being the slightly goal-oriented woman that I am (cough) I want her to be ready to start third grade math in the fall. So I'm taking every opportunity we have to work on math.

The good news is that she's really doing well. Things that she told me she was having trouble with in school, she's starting to understand. Today we were working on addition with carrying and when I asked her if she had done it before she said "Yes, I'm just not good at it." But by the end of the lesson she was carrying like pack mule...or a bellhop...or a celebrity's underpaid assistant. Pick a metaphor, she was carrying like a champ.

And on this day when we remember one man who was willing to stand up and speak out, I thought of this Scripture:

"In that day the Lord Almighty will be a glorious crown, a beautiful wreath for the remnant of his people. He will be a spirit of justice to him who sits in judgment, a source of strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate" Isaiah 28:5-6

Friday, January 15, 2010

Teaching the Teacher

Two weeks of homeschooling down...both kids still alive, house still standing. We're calling it a success. Granted, making sure we have the same number of kids that we started with and keeping the house intact are pretty low minimum standards, but you have to start somewhere.

So here's what I've have learned in my vast homeschooling experience. All two weeks of it.

1) Pray. God wants to shower us with His grace and His blessings. The Holy Spirit is always ready to fill us, guide us and lead us, but we have to be willing to humble ourselves before Him and say, "I can't do this on my own." When we give up our pride and our vain grasping at control then we make the room for God's grace to come in and give us everything we need for every challenge we face.

2) Be willing to learn. Yep, I'm the parent and now the teacher too. But I am also a student in so many ways. I'm learning more about my they learn, how they think, what they respond to, what drives them absolutely monkey nuts. I'm learning what I am good at teaching, what I stink at teaching and I'm learning that there is A LOT of stuff I don't know.

3) Ask for help. I have two good Christian homeschooling friends on speed dial...and I'm not afraid to use it.

4) Not all teaching moments are written in the books. So have a plan, but be prepared to toss it out the window when the snow starts falling. Which leads nicely to the next note...

5) Keep it in perspective. I'm learning to stop judging the kids' work by whether or not Harvard has called for their early applications. If the schedule gets wonky or things go haywire, it's probably not the end of the world. And if it is the end of the world, well...then we have other things to worry about anyway.

6) Teach love first. Yes, I want them to be ridiculously smart and successful. I want Ella to be the figure skating, veterinarian she dreams of becoming and I want Jack to be...well whatever block building, daredevil career he chooses (sounds like another Marine to me). But before all that, I want them to be good people.

7) Pray more. Bottom line, God gave me these two amazing little people to mold and shape and train up in they way they should go. God has already numbered their days and He has a place for them in His plan for this world. So, I need His guidance much more than I need my own resources, brains or plans.

Anyway, that was a little deeper than I originally planned. Go figure. Happy weekend!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Glimmer of Hope

It's possible, though I don't want to jump to conclusions, but it is possible that I may actually be able to teach my children a thing or two. I know, I know, crazy, right? But listen to the success we had today.

Ella has been doing 1 minute addition drills as part of her math lessons. She has a list of 20 addition problems and one minute to finish as many as she can. Correctly. There's always a catch isn't there? She has struggled with these drills because she doesn't have the basic addition sums memorized yet. She still needs to think about the problem and occasionally count on her fingers. So the past 7 drills have been frustrating for her because she usually had 4 or 5 problems left when the minute was up. And for a little girl who doesn't have much of a competitive streak (and considering her mother, *ahem* I'm still not sure how she missed that gene), this was surprisingly annoying to her.

Anyway, today just as I was saying "time's...." she screamed and tossed her hands in the air and yelled, "I did it!" She was so excited. Then Jack jumped up and yelled "Did it too!" He didn't know what he did, but he definitely did it with enthusiasm. And it totally made my day.

Then, because God knew I needed a bit more encouragement, we tried out the new language curriculum and it was a hit. Not just a hit, but a grand slam, going, going, gone, out of the park smashing into someone's windshield hit. Now, I'm still not sure how I feel about sharing specific curriculum reviews on this site, but I do want to say that Explode the Code rocks.

It was recommended to me and let me just say, "Wow!" Ella did 2 whole lessons (16 pages of work) and wrote a short story. And then she asked to do another lesson! Woohoo! We just might make it.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to bookmark this post so I can find it quickly the next time I think I'm a lousy teacher.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Chocolate Bites

Ok faithful readers, I promised you chocolate, so grab your insulin cause here we go. I just discovered this ridiculously yummy bit of chocolate indulgence. And by discovered I mean that back when I was working full-time the mother of a friend of mine made these cookies and I became obsessed with duplicating them. Obsessed in a working for the greater good kind of way, not scary chocolate stalker way.

And now (drum roll please) I am pleased to share my discovery with all of you. Feel free to make and share like a friendly Keebler Elf...though I strongly discourage dressing up like an elf and hanging around trees offering cookies to strangers. The cookies are good but I doubt they'd make your bail. Option 2: make and hoard the cookies and ruthlessly smack away any hands that dare to reach for your stash of chocolate goodness. Guess which camp I'm in.

Here's the recipe:

Take a Nilla Wafer cookie and cover the flat side with peanut butter. I went with Jif, but you can use your favorite brand.

Smoosh (that's a technical cooking term for gently squash together) another Nilla Wafer on top of the peanut butter covered wafer. Now you'll be tempted to eat your little ufo shaped cookie, but don't do it yet.

Next, you need to melt some semi-sweet chocolate. The best way to do this is to melt the chocolate over low heat in a double boiler. But in a pinch a microwave will work...on low. You don't want to scald the chocolate and bring down the wrath of chocolate fiends everywhere. We KNOW when chocolate is being wasted.

Now here's the fun part. Dip your smooshed peanut butter cookies into the chocolate. I'm not going to lie to you, this is a little messy. You can use a spoon to help spread the chocolate over the cookies.

After the cookie is covered, set it on a piece of waxed paper or parchment paper. The chocolate needs some time to set. Continue dipping until you run out of cookies or chocolate.

It will take 15-30 minutes or so for the chocolate to set depending on the humidity in your home and the thickness of your chocolate coating. But once the chocolate is hard, grab a cookie and prepare for bliss. Seriously, this is my new favorite cookie. I don't have a name for it so feel free to post your ideas in the comments.

*Chocolate note. When the cookies are done you may notice the chocolate is a little foggy looking. The only way to avoid this is to properly temper the chocolate...or eat all the cookies really fast. Tempering is a complicated process of heating, cooling and reheating that results in the chocolate looking shiny and pretty. A complicated process I avoid by using a tempering machine. Ha ha, take that pastry chefs! But if you don't have the time and thermometer to temper the chocolate don't will still taste yummy.


Third Guessing

I'm so happy this day is over. Ok almost over. Hey, the kids are in bed, that's over enough for me. Apparently, the homeschool honeymoon phase is also over. Waaaaaay over. Yep, it was a double chocolate kind of day. And the worst part about it is that I can't even blame the kids for the awful, awfulness of the day. It was just one of those days. You know, the kind of day when you question absolutely every decision you have ever made throughout the entirety of your life. And not just the big decisions, but somehow the twisted workings of your inner howler monkey bring up that really bad hairstyle from junior of those days.

See, I haven't figured out how to homeschool and do the laundry. And clean the bathrooms. And mop the floor. And I don't think well when my house is messy. Clutter has some dark power to totally freeze the nerve thingies in my brain that keep me moving. So today when I had to actually step on a pile of dirty laundry to get to the washing machine, I felt my inner howler monkey begin to stir. Then as I was trying to clean a sink while still walking back to Ella's desk every ten seconds to answer a question and trying to keep Jack from "helping" with the Scrubbing Bubbles, the little simian started screeching and flinging monkey poo.

So I spent most of the day second, third and fourth guessing our decision to homeschool. Fortunately, Captain Daddy was able to call from Afghanistan and he got to hear all about it. And God bless him if he didn't listen and then offer some much needed encouragement. He reminded me of all the reasons why we made this decision and told me in a nice way to hang in there. Of course he gets to go shoot things when he gets upset.

But, we're sticking it out. Tomorrow we're painting paper-mache Egyptian jewelry and tackling double-digit subtraction. Tonight, I'll be praying. "You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning. My God turns my darkness into light...It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect." Psalm 18:28, 32

Monday, January 11, 2010

Kids Always Pick Mummies

Here's a phrase I never expected to hear from my sweet, innocent 7 year old daughter who runs screaming from bugs and spiders of all sorts: "Mommy, did you know that when the Egyptians made a mummy they pulled the brain out of the nostril?" How's that for a lovely Monday mental image?

Why is it that when presented with the veritable cornucopia of fascinating historical facts that is Ancient always go for the mummies? Even a soft hearted, girlie girl like Ella. She looked at the books in front of her and without a moment's hesitation went for "How Mummies Were Made." And notice that none of the religious, social or cultural elements caught her was the brain scooping. Fortunately, there isn't a "hands-on" lesson involved here.

Sorry, pause for an ewwwww moment.

Ok, back to business. Right now I'm trying to decide if I want to squash some of next week's Egypt lesson into this week so we can finish up this section. Next week covers the gods and goddesses of Egypt and the Exodus and I really don't want to try to explain the pantheon of gods to Ella. Especially the promiscious ones...or the ones who turned into hippos to settle their manly issues. Not kidding, Google it.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Binomial What?

I know, it's Saturday. There should be no scientific terms used during the weekend and I apologize. But today when I got Jack down for a nap, which is a minor miracle in and of itself these days, Ella had a question for me.

"Mommy, can we do my science lesson now?"

Now not even I, The Merciless Mommy, Denier of Snow Days, had planned any schoolwork for today. But, how do you say no when a 7 year old wants to study. So I broke out the book and we sat down for a lesson. We're doing zoology, which is the only reason she wanted to have a lesson. She is nuts for animals. In fact, she wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up...and a champion figure skater and a mommy.

So I'm reading about zoology, taxonomy and binomial nomenclature and my brain screamed "you already have a college degree stop reading big words!" Again, I'm not sure which of us in school because today I learned all about animal classification and the Latin names for animals. Would you like to get smarter today as well? Great, here's your lesson:

Do you remember anything about animal classification? You know kingdom, phylum, etc. Yeah, neither did I. Anyway, they gave us a helpful mnemonic device for remembering the order of all the groups for classification. "Kings Play Chess On Fine Glass Sets." Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species. Ah, can you feel the smart cells growing?

Of course the next question asked Ella to come up with her own mnemonic. She went with Kids Play Checkers On Fine Gold Sets. And while I admire her upgrading the sets from glass to gold, I however would have gone another way with my mnemonic. Such as "Killer Penguins Chewed Off Franny's Green Shoes." But that's just me.

Feel free to post your mnemonic in the comments...but keep it clean please.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday Frustration

So my day started out well. I woke up, peeked out the window, saw went downhill from there. First, a word of explanation. I am from California. Southern California. I don't do snow. I don't do cold. A "snow event" for me is when my ice maker overflows. So when I crawl out from under my electric blanket and see white stuff falling from the sky, my mood is less than jolly.

However, today as I looked out upon the cold, snowy, snowness, I felt a tiny stirring of glee. Now that we homeschool our school is never closed. Bwaaaahaaahaaa! (That's my merciless mommy laugh). Snow day? What's that? Get your books!

Ella was great about starting the school day. We did our family devotional and Jack even helped pray. His adorable 3 year old prayer goes something like this, "Jesus. Amen." Then we sat down to do her Language work and her sunny disposition disappeared. She can't stand her Language Arts curriculum. And I mean she loathes it with a captial "oh please don't make me do it"

And unfortunately my patience level was just not there today. I woke up with the sniffles (stupid snow) so I was already not feeling well. And when I don't feel well, I'm not exactly a people person....even for little people. Finally, after much whining, complaining and procrastinating (and it wasn't me this time), we got through her lesson and moved on to math. Then they got to go outside and play in the snow.

Now, I'm back to researching curriculum. Cause even I don't like this Language course. But that's why we are experimenting this semester. Everything else has been a hit, so one bad apple in the curriculum bunch isn't too bad.

Have a happy weekend!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I Need a Hobby

You, my faithful readers (Bueller? Bueller?) may recall that I had a slight nervous reaction over our decision to homeschool. Translation: sobbing mess, mascara streaked, wiping my nose with my sweater panic attack. But after the meltdown my very patient and very understanding husband gave me a pep talk and a sage piece of advice. "Get a hobby."

As we were driving him to the airport very early Tuesday was grande size early...he reminded me that I needed to find something to do that would get me out of the house and away from my adorable children at least once a week. Personally, I love the idea and don't feel even the slightest twinge of guilt for wanting an hour or so to myself. But don't worry, I have a babysitter on call. Apparently kids aren't the same as cats. You can't just put some food and water on the floor and head out the door. Pesky child welfare laws.

Of course if we're being brutally honest here, I may say that I want to get away from the kids for a bit, but I can't seem to make myself do it. Drat, I must REALLY love them. So, whatever shall I do to keep my mommy sanity level in check? Art class? (Finger painting is about my speed) Martial arts? (I like the idea of hitting things every once in a while) Ballroom dancing? (By myself? That could be awkward) pedicures count as a hobby?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Workbooks and Textbooks and Reading Books...Oh My!

So, the UPS guy probably hates me. I finally received the rest of Ella's curriculum five boxes...all delivered by the nice people who drive the big brown truck. Now it wasn't that I ordered five boxes worth of books, but I ordered from three different sites. It was just a happy coincidence for me (and probably a less joyful experience for the UPS guy) that everything was delivered on the same day.

Perhaps you are at this moment scratching your head and wondering why I would shop at three different sites. It's simple, I'm thrifty. Not cheap, not stingy, not miserly because those words made me sound like a wrinkled old man who brings up the Great Depression every time he buys groceries. I, on the other hand, am frugal. So once I decided on which curricula I would be using with Ella and Jack (which is a whole other tale of research gone wild) I spent hours of my life searching online bookstores to figure out who had the best price. So I ordered a little bit here, a little bit there and today I was confronted with the end result. Stacks of books and nowhere to put them.

Which in the grand scheme of poverty, human trafficking and global warming is not a big deal. But in my little world of manic organization to keep away the demons of chaos, it's enough to make me twitch. Ella and I had a blast opening all the boxes and examining every single book. And it didn't take me long to realize that the teacher's guides are thickest books in the bunch. Hmmm...I'm not entirely sure which of us in school here.

So now, as I am standing in front of stacks of workbooks, textbooks, readers, teacher's guides and random beads and tiles from the math set that somehow escaped their plastic baggies (Jack!), I have no idea how to organize it all. Fortunately Ella already has a desk set up and we have a nearly empty shelf on the kids' bookcase. Current plan, file everything neatly on the shelves so I can once again see the carpet and avoid a catastrophic bead slipping injury and wait for organizational inspiration to hit me.

And by hit me, I mean a gentle pat on the shoulder not the cartoon anvil that squashes at will. I've found it's best to be specific in these things.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

First Day of School

Technically today was our second day of school. But I didn't have a blog yesterday to post about our actual first day of school so instead I'm posting it today and I'd like all of you to pretend that it was posted yesterday. Ahem, so here we go, today is Monday Jan. 4th, our first day of homeschool.

And guess was a good day. Of course we cheated a little bit. Captain Daddy was home for 2 weeks leave and his last day home. So we took Ella and Jack to Chuck E. Cheese in the morning. That counts as a field trip, right? There was:

* physical education - crawling through those plastic tubes like hamsters on Red Bull
* math - counting mouse faced paper tickets
* and health - standing still as I showered them in Lysol

On the way home Ella loudly proclaimed "I love homeschooling!"

But, rest assured my virtual accountability community, we did get actual education accomplished. I haven't received all of Ella's curriculum yet, so we were limited to Math and Geography. Math was a big hit, Geography...not so much. Which makes me wonder if she's really my daughter...cause I totally would have gone the other way.

And here's the best part...after Math my sweet Ella looked at me and said "this is so much fun!" Woohoo!! Ok, I know it was just the first day and it wasn't even a full day and there was that whole Chuck E. Cheese set-up, but still, I did a little happy dance. First day done and no tears, no complaining and no whining. And Ella was good too. :)

1, 2, 3...Go!

For us homeschooling was more of a 1...2...2 1/4...2 1/2...wait, are we sure? We had been discussing it and praying about it for months and even when the Marine Corps helped our decision along, I was a mass of uncertainty, insecurity and dread. Yes, I said it, dread. I was terrified that I was going to permanently damage our children and turn their brains to mush. I was afraid that being home with them all day, every day would slowly drive me insane and turn me into the creepy lady who screams at the squirrels.

And I'll be honest, I'm still a little afraid of all those things. But here's what I'm holding on to..."Commit your path to the Lord, trust also in Him." Psalm 37:5. Captain Daddy and I prayed over this decision, we sought counsel from people we trust and went over every aspect of this mind numbingly, bordering on obsessive detail. That was all me, by the way, I'm the nutty compulsive one in the family. And after all of that, I still had a minor panic attack when we finally pulled Ella out of the school. Ok, major panic attack, but no hyper-ventilating.

I was second guessing the decision even before we made the decision. And trust me, that takes a special kind of insecurity. But, I am daily reminding myself, that we gave this decision to God and we are trusting Him with it. When the Psalm says "commit your path to the Lord" it means gives it all you have, 100% in and then trust God for the outcome. If we truly give it into His hands, then we can trust Him to help us through.

So, having said all that...let's start our first day.

What Have I Done?

What Have I Done?

I have asked myself that question in a variety of forms more times than I can count in the past 5 days. Homeschooling? Really? What were we thinking? But here we are, a brand spankin' new homeschooling family. Prayers are welcome and appreciated! :)

I've had a number of my friends and family members ask me why we decided to homeschool so part of the reason for this blog is to keep everyone updated on the kids...and my sanity level. So here's the long-ish answer to the big question: we decided to homeschool because right now it is the best decision for our family. Sounds pretty mature and grown-up right? Well, don't let my masterful blogging skills fool you, I have no idea what I'm doing.

We have a 7 year old daughter and a 3 year old son. I'm going to call them Ella and Jack. (Names have been changed to protect my usually innocent and occasionally guilty munchkins.) Ella is in 2nd grade and was attending an awesome Christian school, but as often happens with the military, the Marine Corps stepped right in and stirred up the waters of our peaceful Virginia life. My husband is a Marine Captain and in April he was deployed to Afghanistan. The kids and I stayed in Virginia because we have a house we can't sell (thank you housing market crash) and frankly I wasn't exactly thrilled with the idea of moving to a new state just in time to see my hubby deploy for a year.

In December we found out that the Marines have further plans for Captain Daddy when he returns from this deployment. I could tell you, but then I'd have to...well...hit the delete key a bunch of times I guess. Anyway, he won't be coming back to Virginia for a long time. But he will only be a few hours away so we want to be able to pack up the kids and visit Daddy whenever he's in the country. With homeschooling we can do that and Ella won't miss any school.

We are also a Christian family and we have pretty strong feelings about what we want our children to be taught and how we want them to be raised. It's a win-win...unless I totally lose my mind...then it's not so good. So stayed tuned, it's like a ticking time bomb that will either spew heart shaped confetti of family love and togetherness...or a mass of inky-black soul sucking goo.

Now come on, aren't you a little curious to see how it's going to turn out?