Monday, May 16, 2011

Birds, birds and more birds

It all started with my brother, the Instigator. He sent a rather innocuous looking link and said something about "baby eagles". That was all it took. Soon thereafter, my kids became eagles. On top of watching the live webcam and tracking the babies, they themselves flew about the house, googled habits of eagles and spent birthday money on new eagle toys. My 8yr old Rose even declared one night, "I'm only eating the meat at dinner because eagles don't eat anything else".

When they are not being eagles, they've been Daddy's helpers in the garden. He's replacing the old wooden rotting-out raised garden boxes with concrete block raised beds. And he's expanding the garden area. It's a very slow long job (and our rainy weather hasn't helped) because he's building it on the hill. So in order to level the beds, he's doing a LOT of digging. And leveling with gravel and leveling with blocks and top stones. It's a big process, I'm telling ya. But the kids love being out there with him. They're apparently naturalists...but Rose is the one who enjoys it the most. She has the drive and focus to stay and help when the rest have gone off to play. I walked out the other day to see how things were coming along and heard Rose say, "Dad, what's that pile of decomposing material over there from?" So she's getting some great science lessons out there.

And then Daddy had to feed the bird obsession. He installed a hummingbird feeder and a finch suet feeder and we have had a blast watching and observing and pretending and yahoo-ing and researching.

As for me? Well, I think it's for the birds.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Who are you all?

I'm amazed that I haven't posted anything since December and I still have about 50 people every week come and check out my blog. I'm that many of you can't be lost! :) Thanks for looking and bearing with me as life has gotten really hectic and my posts have become almost non-existent.

I'm also not quite sure what to do with this blog at this point. I attended a homeschooling expo and decided to try out a program, popular in my area, called My Father's World. It's basically a glorified unit study, and unit studies have always appealed to me. The program goes in a 5 year cycle and the first year is about geography and cultures, then two years of world history and two years of American history, all from a Christian perspective.

It's given us a little more structure but we're done with it in two hours on most days. The kids also asked for a math program so we're using Math-U-See, which they really love due to the leg0-like manipulatives that they use.

So the 7 and 9 yr olds are using these programs and the little ones are still unschooling. I meant to only do these programs with the oldest but the 7yr old wanted to be involved too and that's fine. The little ones sometimes sit along with our read-alouds or color or practice writing while we do "school" so they're probably absorbing some information as well. But they are free to come and go as they please. I encourage them to go play as often as I can because I still believe that unschooling is vital, especially for the younger years.

I'll be updating sporadically and as always, if you have questions, please post - they get emailed to me and I'll be sure to respond. Thanks for visiting!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Memories

Christmas decorating this year was a little different than usual. I was feeling a bit down because I had been out of commission for six weeks from my MS flare and was missing out on some activities that I have looked forward to all year. Las Posadas on the riverfront, singing in our church Christmas program, the homeschooling group field trips, my MOPS outings and even Black Friday shopping had all been canceled due to my limitations.

Watching my kids excitement at putting up the decorations really got me in the mood though. They gleefully and painstakingly rolled out all the strings of lights, plugged them in and exchanged burned out bulbs. They attached all 50+ branches on the tree and stayed up very late watching Hubby hang the lights up. Hanging the ornaments was icing on the cake for them.

They giggled with glee when they found the Veggie Tales ornament, argued over which colored ball to hang and awwww'd when they found their baby ornaments. Near the end, I heard 6yrRose say, “Do I really have to hang this hideous one?” 4yrJade agreed, “Yeah, it's hideous.” 9yrMatthew said, “Just hang it in the back.” Rose, pondering this for a moment said, “I don't want to hang this hideous one. Mom, do I have to hang this hideous bear?”

As I turned toward her, I noticed that hanging from her hand was an ornament given to me, I think, by Darlene and Grandpa. It is a cute bear making an ice sculpture of a snowman. But one of the bear's arms is missing and I assume that is the reason why it has been named “hideous bear”. I looked at the date on it: 1981. This ornament is almost 30 years old! My thoughts wandered to Christmas at Grandpas house. The crackling fireplace, the laughter of our family, the excitement of the season, the long drive there and the short drive home, listening to card games, begging Mom to stay “just a little bit longer”, the fluffy green sleeping bags of Grandpas, the play room upstairs that wasn't heated, Barbies, playing hide and seek and, of course, all the delicious food.

My eyes wandered down our tree to another ornament. A Klingon Bird of Prey. It was the first ornament I gave Hubby after we married in 1994 and again my thoughts drifted to the past. Our first arguments, the little apartment we started out in, my first office job, playing card games with friends, sharing our one older-than-dirt car for several years, our first house, the dreams we had about what life would be like down the road, staying up all night to play Myst through the New Year, going on a Canadian fishing trip with Hubby's family.

As I looked around, my eye caught Matthew's baby ornament, 2000. Motherhood was nothing like I had anticipated and those memories flooded back as well. Hyperemesis while I was pregnant, his exciting birth, moments of worry while they took him down the hall for oxygen. All the time I spent holding him for hours and hours, the frustration of trying to determine why he was crying “this” time, the joy of finding that he liked the exersaucer and I could actually put him down for a while. The seclusion I felt that first year after quitting my job and becoming a stay-at-home-mom. Joining La Leche League and gaining mommy friends. I grew a lot as a person that first year of motherhood.

As I looked at each of the kids baby ornaments, I was flooded with all their memories as well. Rose's long labor, my amazement at how easy an “easy baby” could be. I grimaced as I remembered when Rose dropped newborn Jade on the floor and it sounded like an egg cracking. The jaundice we fought with all of them, my MS diagnosis when Jade was 6 months old, dealing with gestational diabetes and gallbladder disease, worrying through 2yrLinnae's pregnancy that I wasn't on medication for MS and what if I had problems after she was born, and all of Linnae's ER trips (splitting her toe open, fever seizures and most recently, the allergic reaction to nuts).

My eyes had made their way down the tree and now focused on the empty tree skirt. It looks so bare without presents. I can still vividly remember Matthew's reaction the year he got his Veggie Tales Larry-Mobile. He screamed in delight, cried and ran out of the room in a dramatic flare. The same reaction was true for the Buzz Lightyear “armie-grabber” and the Bionicle Takanuva. My girls, on the other hand, haven't ever had that one item that they just HAD to have. They make a list and seem happy with whatever they get. I think they take after me.

Though Mom may recall differently, I can't remember ever focusing on one particular gift that I was hoping for under the tree. Sure there was always a new Amy Grant tape that I wanted but I never remember feeling disappointed that I didn't get that “one thing”. I do, however, remember many gifts that hold a special place in my heart. My stereo, guitar (though I think that was a birthday gift?), boombox, a little Styrofoam airplane that had “Phoenix” written on it, my K-9 figure, a beautiful sandcastle, necklaces with my name or initial on them, and a big brown stuffed bear.

But my most prized gift from childhood is definitely my
Sesame Street blanket.

Though it's threadbare in the most literal sense, it is still the perfect weight and feel that a blanket should be. I've tried many times to mimic similar blankets for my kids (and myself) and just can't make them feel as good as that one. Warm but not hot, smooth but not silky, functional but fun. I bring it out from time to time to show my kids but Sesame Street has changed so much since the 70's that it doesn't hold my kids attention in the slightest and they spend the time asking me the characters names instead of admiring this amazing thing my mom made for me. When I look at it, I think about how many long hours Mom must have spent during nap time at the day school working on each delicate stitch. How she must have worried like crazy that she wouldn't get all our blankets finished on time that year! I imagine her back hurting from being hunched over in those metal chairs, trying to see the lines under the soft nap time lights. It stirs something in me to put myself in her shoes. As a mom, it's easy now to imagine the effort she put into the blanket. But I wonder if she can put herself in my shoes. She can't possibly imagine how comforting that blanket was to me. It was always there. Always a reminder of how much she loved me. It was there when I was burning up with fever, there when I had my first heartbreak. It was there to make a tent over the heat register after playing in the snow and there to make forts and tunnels with our chairs. I wasn't “sick” until Mom brought my blanket to the couch and made me lie down. Even as a teenager, I still sought out that blanket when I was sick.

I'm surprised to find myself grateful that I've been forced to slow down this year and reflect on Christmas Past as my thoughts keep wandering down our tree...

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


Yes, I said the P word.

When I think of politics, I remember nasty fights my father's family would get into every Thanksgiving and Christmas over the political weather. They were each very vocal in their beliefs and they had opposite beliefs. Not a good mix for this timid young girl. I hated listening to them argue and yell and vowed to stay away from politics.

In fact, I remember that my first big fight with my husband (while we were still dating) was over politics. Not who I voted for but the fact that I wouldn't discuss it with him. I didn't even want to tell him *why* I voted for who I voted for because I knew he voted for the other guy and I was expecting a big fight like I'd seen as a young girl.

So I've stayed out of it. I'll be views have drastically changed since we got married (all of my own accord, I assure you) and since we now agreed, it seemed a little safer to discuss. But still, I didn't want to get him going. What could my one little vote do? Vote and live with whatever the majority wanted.

Until now. This last year has opened the eyes of many Moms all across America, including me. I think we've decided that the spending of the last 5 years is totally out of control and this is going to have a major effect on our kids lives. And as a mom, you don't mess with our kids!! I feel the urge, as many moms have recently, to actually get involved and do something about it.

I now find myself watching political talk shows and listening to political talk radio. I find myself wanting to head to DC in an effort to make my points heard. And I find myself wanting to really show my kids what this country was founded on and the original beliefs of our government. I believe it's important to teach them so they can know the truth.

So I've decided to get a little Charlotte Mason-y on you. We're going to read through history. Good living books like The Sign of the Beaver and Little House and The Call of the Wild and Little Women. Books that enable us to dip right into that time in history and learn about life.

We're starting with The Birchbark House, a story about a Native American Ojibwa girl in 1847. We've read two chapters and have already discussed smallpox, Native American religious beliefs, building materials for homes, language differences, and the uses and preparation of animals (food, clothing, tools, etc). They often interrupt the story to discuss a new idea to think about, which is a little distracting to me but I've learned this is how they like to read and I can go with the flow. :) We're thinking of building a tepee (because we can't rip birch bark off a tree anywhere near here).

I'll keep you updated on our reading list and might add the list in the sidebar too.

Monday, October 05, 2009


The kids have enjoyed studying animals all summer around here. They've focused on insects but we've also studied squirrels, dogs, rabbits and turkeys. Yes, turkeys. Though we live in a suburb of a very large city, we have a gang of wild turkeys who have chosen a home nearby. We pass by them nearly every day at some point. I'll try to snap some pictures for you but I'm usually driving so we'll see what I can get safely. ;) Maybe we need to take a walk up there and hunt for them.

But they want more info now. Like, what actually makes birds fly? And are squirrels and woodchucks related?

So I found a series of books that we are really enjoying. It's a series by Jeannie Fulbright and called Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day. It is written for grades K-6 (but I'm learning things and not feeling 'talked down' to!). We go over the subject matter, I find out what they absorbed and we move on. I can see these books as great reference materials and books that we do several times in the years to come, learning more each time around as our interests grow. Jeannie has two more books in the zoology series on land animals and swimming creatures. She also has books on biology, chemistry, botany, astronomy, etc. It's a great series and we're having fun with it.

So what does enable birds to fly? Is it the amount of force they exert on the air? No, it's lift. The neat experiment we did was this:
1. fill a cup with water and put a straw in it
2. take another straw and blow across the top of the first straw (in the fashion of blowing across the top of a glass soda bottle to make a sound)
What happens? Try it and see. :)

Monday, September 28, 2009

During our station break...

I know, I promised to try harder. But honestly, blogging just hasn't been in me this summer. **However**, I DO love fall...and the crisp cool weather makes me want to start all kinds of projects and get frisky! So I'm sure the blogging is coming soon!

Meanwhile, I give these few humorous links for your entertainment since I, in all my glorious unschooling, just don't want to right now. :-P And because I'm an unschooler, that means that I don't have to. :) Be back soon!


The Bitter Homeschoolers Wishlist

Confessions of a home-schooler

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A New School Year

Well, at least for my friends.

Many people ask me this time of year if we've started our school year yet. The truth is, we don't really have an ending so we don't really have a beginning either. Our learning never stops. And honestly, schooled kids are no different - I just think we look at learning from different points of view.

However, we have been doing a little more ebbing than flowing lately so last night, I asked the kids if there was anything they'd like to learn more about. They were quick with answers.

6yrDD: Animals!
me: What about animals?

6yrDD: Everything!! And weather!
me: Ok, we can work on that.
8yrDS: Mom, I want to learn about atoms.
me: (eyebrow lifting) should talk to your father because you already know more about atoms than I do. We'll work on it.
I turned to the 4yr old: And what would you like to learn?
4yrDD: I want to know how to draw my letters. Like S and W.
me thinking: Hmm, it's nice when they ask you.

So I suppose a trip to the library is due.

6yrDD has found a game on Webkinz that allows you to create dialog for animated creatures in order to write your own story. She loves it! The interesting part is that it has a built-in spell checker and she has spent the morning asking me how to spell words. It led to a great discussion on contractions. And she told me that she needs to practice spelling words.

To a parent of a 6yr old schooled kid, you might think, "Ok, so my kid has spelling words every week too." The difference with unschooling is this: *she* told *me*. I didn't tell her. Therefore, the drive is within her. She wants to learn this and because she has the desire, she will be more motivated and will probably learn it in a shorter amount of time than most of her schooled peers.

"What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child." - George Bernard Shaw