Good Friday and Our Garden

04.18.2014 | 2:47 pm | Daily Life, Gardening, Homeschooling

It’s a dreary, rainy Good Friday. The boys are busy this morning putting together a Lego scene of the crucifixion. That probably sounds morbid, but it’s really not like that. It’s a hands-on activity where they use their impressive Lego skills to portray everything they’ve learned through our Lenten lessons.

The Crucifixion Scene:

There’s a lot going on in the scene. I took a short video while Gray described all the different things they included.

This portrays the scene later, after noon, when the sky went dark and people started to realize something huge was happening. Everyone is looking skyward, while Caiaphus stands stubbornly:

While they worked on this, I cooked up a pile of italian seasoned ground beef, and half of it is now in the crockpot with lots of tomatoes and sauce, where it will become spaghetti sauce for dinner tonight. The other half is going into the freezer for the next time spaghetti is on the menu. As I was saying in my previous post, unfortunately, that was probably my chore of the day. It used way too many “spoons”, if you’re familiar with that analogy (if you’re not, look up “the spoon theory”).

Also in my last post, I said I’d spent the past weeks doing as much potting, re-potting, and gardening as my body would allow each day.

What exactly was I doing? Well, the first week I spent re-potting all my plants and sprucing them up for the season. Between outdoor and indoor plants, I had 23 in all! After spending a long, cold winter sitting in the garage, the outdoor plants were ragged, tired, and in dire need of pruning and refreshing. The indoor plants were overgrown and tired looking. When I re-pot, I prune the roots first. Then I re-pot with new soil. I always use a mixture of 2/3 potting mix with 1/3 sand from our back yard. It helps immensely with drainage, and my plants thrive in it, so I think it’s perfect. Finally, I prune off all the dead or spindly growth, which usually amounts to over half the plant being pruned away. But that helps them to thrive, because within a couple of weeks of this hard pruning, my plants are putting out all kinds of new growth, and those that flower are popping out their first flowers of the season.

With all the pruning, I end up with piles of cuttings. I used to stick some of my cuttings into more potting soil and start new plants, but at this point I have all I can handle, so I now give the cuttings away. Frustratingly, none of my local friends or neighbors care much for growing things, so after my cuttings being turned down one too many times, I started posting a craigslist ad in the “free” section whenever I prune, and within an hour I have people fighting to come get my free cuttings. The upside is I’ve met some nice local people who do enjoy growing things, and they really appreciate the cuttings, so I know they’re going to a good home. :-) It’s win-win. I do the same thing in the summertime when my herbs are producing way more than we can use or freeze.

While I was doing all this hard work, I had Philip building me a small veggie garden bed off of our back patio. He did a great job doing all the difficult mathematical figuring and getting the brick border level and plumb (who knew building a garden bed requires geometry? Since I don’t acknowledge math beyond a 7th grade level ;-) , I’m very appreciative of his higher math skills!). He then amended our native soil with manure and mushroom compost, and chopped up lots of leaves for the top layer of mulch. I planted a grape tomato plant, two heirloom summer squash plants, and a lot of herbs: basil, oregano (used to season the spaghetti this morning!), two types of thyme, sage, parsley, and chives. My rosemary plant from last year is huge and thriving, and is just outside the bed. The squash and tomato plants have grown in size and are beginning to set flowers, so hopefully healthy fruit will be next. I have a few feet of space left in the bed and am waiting on warmer weather before I plant speckled butter beans. We’re going to use concrete reinforcement mesh as a trellis. I’m going to get two panels and a-frame them, and plant the beans on either side so they can climb up. I also got some heirloom sugar baby watermelon seeds, but because of the way our yard is engineered, I have to plant that off of our lawn area, so I’ve got a spot reserved for it in a lawnless area. I’m going to grow them in a pile of manure & compost…I’m just waiting on warmer weather for that, also. We’ve had an unusually cool spring. Even now, in mid-April at noon, it’s only 58 degrees. Normally we’re in the 80s by now.

In addition to my garden bed herbs, I got a mint plant this year. It’s too aggressive to be planted in the ground or bed, so I planted it in a terra cotta window box. I got it for the boys, because both of them are crazy about peppermints, and I thought they’d enjoy picking a leaf off here & there for a treat. I was right, too. They can’t keep their hands off of it. :-) I also got some ever-bearing strawberry plants, and planted them in a strawberry pot that I got via freecycle. We all love strawberries and can never get enough of them, but they never have local strawberries anymore in our markets, so I’m hoping these work out. So far, so good. They’ve tripled in size and are starting to put out their first flowers.

Lastly, I planned and planted a hummingbird and butterfly garden. I’ll talk more about that in an upcoming post, and share pictures. Also, while all this craziness was going on, we had a landscaping contractor doing work on our yard (we have serious drainage issues…never build on a hill, folks), planting trees (we got two Live Oaks and two River Birches), and installing raised foundation beds along the front and side of our house. This is a huge project, and the foundation beds are something I’ve been waiting to get ever since we built the house five years ago. I’ll share how that’s going in another post, also (teaser: it’s been a disaster due to their poor setup and workmanship, and we’re still trying to get the contractors to sort it all out).

For now, I’ll leave you with my wishes for a blessed and meaningful Good Friday and upcoming Resurrection Sunday!

Spring! Resurrection Day is approaching!

04.17.2014 | 1:57 pm | Daily Life, Gardening, Homeschooling

Here I sit catching my breath. It’s what I have to do often throughout the day, in order to be able to do anything at all. I feel indescribably sick all the time, but the feeling is at its mildest in the mornings (usually. Sometimes I get an unpleasant surprise and it’s actually worse in the mornings), so mornings are when I try to get as much done as I can. If there’s a chore that requires a good bit of energy, it zaps me completely, leaving me weak and feeling very ill. So I only have the strength for one big chore each day. For instance, if I’m going to be the one to cook dinner that night (Philip usually has to cook, but he can only do simple things), I have to choose that as my “thing I’ll get done today”, and I do all the prep in the morning.

This morning, Philip had a meeting in Pensacola (big new client! Great news!), and while there he got some important errands done, so I was alone with the boys through lunch. The first thing we did was go outside and I got them started on a Good Friday nature walk. I know today isn’t Good Friday, but I have something else planned for that tomorrow, so I decided to have them do the nature walk today. They had to find six nature items relating to the days leading up to Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection, and then draw them. The items were: A palm leaf (entry into Jerusalem), thorns (the crown of thorns), sweet or spicy scented plant (spices used to cover his body), large rock (the stone at his tomb), and an example of new life (resurrection). They also had to choose & identify a tree and do a bark rubbing of a cross. They enjoyed it and both of them actually said it helped them to reflect on these different aspects of Jesus’ last days & resurrection, so…mission accomplished!

So as I mentioned, I got them outside with their clipboards and started them off by making sure Des knew how to do a bark rubbing. Then I set them off to do the rest of the “hunt” on their own. Not surprisingly, they went into the woods to find most of the items. While they were doing that, I gathered clothes to wash and got that started, and then I started working on cooking. Eventually, the boys came back and we went over their findings, and then they had a snack while I finished my recipe. Gray helped me clean the kitchen counters and put things up, and then he swept the floors for me because when I was refilling the sugar canister, a huge clump came out and shattered, spraying sugar all over the place. He knew I was at the end of my morning strength, so he came to my rescue, as he always does. :-) He also helped get his and Des’ lunch ready, which is something he does for me whenever Philip isn’t home or is too busy to help. He’s learning to be a good man!

Now Philip is back, and I collapsed onto the couch, where I’ll stay until I feel well enough to get up and do something else. And so go all of my days, for the past year or so. It sounds bad, and it is in many ways, but after the year before last, which I spent completely bedridden, I can’t complain too much. I’m thankful I can be up and do anything at all!

The boys are still on their Spring break, since the weather is still so nice. I have G doing math and Des doing Phonics each day still, to make sure we don’t fall behind in those crucial subjects. During this break, I worked very hard each day to get my planting and gardening done for the spring. I can only work in short bursts- maybe an hour or two outside, tops, and then I have to go inside, guzzle water, and rest for at least 30 minutes to an hour. Then I can go back outside and work for another hour or so, then back inside. Lather, rinse, repeat. I did this each day until it got dark. And I’m finally (mostly) finished.

What exactly was I doing outside? Well, I’ll do a separate post about that.

School Update and a Few Thoughts

02.18.2014 | 11:02 pm | Homeschooling

It’s February and the boys and I are working hard at lessons. We took way too much time off during the fall and also during Christmas & right afterward. When we hit the books again, I balked when I realized we weren’t even halfway through Gray’s 5th grade math curriculum yet. We school year-round, but I like to finish up his grade year by June, so we can take off for a few weeks before starting a new grade in July. I did some quick calculating, and if we work hard and if he takes his tests on the weekend (they’re pretty quick), we can get one extra lesson in each week. That will get us finished up by early June, and we can even still take 2 weeks off in March for a Spring break, once the weather gets nice and warm (but before it gets hot). So that’s the plan!

Des’ grade level is a little more complicated. If he were in public school, he’d be in kindergarten this year. However, I started him on kindergarten math back in the fall of 2012, and then I started him in kindergarten phonics in January 2013. He was way more ready for math than he was for phonics and reading at the time…he’s slightly dyslexic and has had some struggles with early reading. We’ve moved through both subjects at his pace, which means we’ve stopped here and there and worked on things a bit longer.

Because of this staggering, slowing down, and occasionally stopping, we finished kindergarten math last month— at halfway through the year. We took a short break to focus on addition facts (he has been slower to catch on to those, but is doing really well now!), and then started 1st grade math last week. And a year into kindergarten phonics, we’re about 4 weeks from finishing up, at which time we’ll go right to 1st grade phonics.

For Des, learning to blend consonants and vowels was very stressful and difficult for him at first (last year), but once he got that down, and once we started learning “special sounds” (Abeka’s word for phonograms), he started “getting” reading…finally! He’s made amazing progress over these past weeks especially. For instance, just a couple of months ago, he would only read very simple words if he was asked to do so. He would never attempt to read on his own, and also wouldn’t write anything at all unless he was told to do it. But just in the past two weeks or so, he’s started reading everything. He’ll surprise me by suddenly reading out loud to me when he sees things that interest him in his magazines and books, or something on the television screen. He’s noticing words and is enjoying the fact that he can decode and read them now! During these same couple of weeks, he’s begun writing things all on his own. He’s been writing little notes and journal type entries, and though his spelling needs work, he’s actually writing things on his own accord, so I’m thrilled!

For all the struggles Des has had, Gray has never struggled a bit with any academic work. He just picks things up naturally, like Philip and myself always did (no one taught any of us three to read, for example; we just started reading on our own around age four). Gray even taught himself to tell time when he was three to four years old, which still amazes me when I think about it. But Des…he’s had to be taught. To read, to add, to tell time, and probably, I’m guessing, he’ll need to be taught to spell well. Overall, I believe he is a smart boy, but in my opinion he’s not “gifted”, which is characterized by a natural inclination or “gift” of understanding things like these with little to no formal teaching. I sure do love him, though! :-)

Gray, however, for all his intelligence and ability, struggles with what I feel are serious attention issues. I have no doubt he would be diagnosed with ADD if we were to have him evaluated. I believe he has some other issues as well. He has stayed in much trouble for not doing his work in a timely manner. He’s lost all privileges on many occasions, but nothing ever seems to get him to simply sit down and do his schoolwork assignments like he’s supposed to. We finally made some adjustments to his workspace recently, gave him a few new incentives, and that —along with losing every privilege he’s ever known— seems to have gotten him motivated to do his schoolwork properly, because he’s done really well for the past few weeks. I am so thankful for that, because struggling with him on this for a couple of years now has been extremely frustrating and stressful! I’m praying he sticks with his newfound diligence when it comes to his schoolwork.

Twenty Seconds of Completely Unnecessary Panic.

09.9.2013 | 2:08 pm | Uncategorized

I’m not trying to debate vaccines or push my opinions on anyone (that is soooo new-mother-ish! ;-)), but for the sake of understanding this silly story, here’s a quick background:

We’re a selective and delayed-vaxing family. After much careful research, we chose to skip vaxes that aren’t crucial for babies who aren’t in daycare: Hib, Prevnar, rotavirus, etc.; as well as the (*coughcough*asinine) chickenpox vax. But we did choose do give the (IMO) crucial vaxes, for diseases that are either a real risk (whooping cough, anyone?), and/or very dangerous: DTaP, MMR, and Polio. Based on my research, I don’t consider measles particularly dangerous for children, but it does have potentially serious risks, and it’s also out there…and I don’t want to be part of its resurgence by not vaccinating.

However, for the MMR vaccine, because of all the controversy & risks associated with giving babies three live viruses all at once, I chose to delay it. We delayed it quite a bit, actually: Desmond just got his very first dose of MMR last week, and he’s just about to turn 6 (his 6th birthday is next Wednesday, to be exact). I actually didn’t intend to delay it this long. My plan was to give it just after his 4th birthday—sparing the risks associated with giving three live viruses to a still-developing baby, as well as eliminating the need for a booster until college age—but since I got sick right about that time, it kind of got pushed aside while we were trying to cope with dealing with my situation.

Now that things are at least somewhat under control with me (not that I’m not still very sick; unfortunately, I am. But I’ve learned to cope with the symptoms to the degree that, most days, we can focus on other things), we wanted to get him in to have his MMR shot.

So, Philip took little Des in to the health department last week. The whole thing was uneventful, as it usually is for him. He’s a tough little guy, and never cries for shots. He just purses his lips and takes ‘em like a man. He always has! The vaccine nurse at the health department is really sweet. She’s always remembered us and our boys when we come in. She always gives a sticker or small toy, and even though Gray wasn’t with them that day, she told Des to pick a sticker to bring home to him.

After the shot, Philip stopped at a convenience store and let Des pick out his choice of treat, for being such a trooper. Des took forever to choose something, but finally settled on “Fun Dip”, which is today’s version of the old “Lik-M-Aid”. It’s basically sweetened kool-aid type powder that you eat by licking a candy stick and dipping it into the powder, licking it off, and so on. The powder is blue, and it stains the tongue and mouth blue. He had some of it when he got home, and saved the rest for later.

Then, at around sunset, we all went out for our evening walk—something I’m so grateful to be able to do now, after spending over a year bedridden and unable to walk outdoors. I’m slow, and I feel horrible while walking & for a while afterwards, but I can do it, praise God! It’s a thousand times better than being stuck on the couch staring miserably out the window every evening, wishing I could just go outside and walk (yeah, that’s what I did all last year).

Back to the MMR shot, and its risks. I’ve dreaded him getting this one for a long time, again, due to the controversy and the higher risk of potential side effects. So I was watching him closely that day for any sign of reaction (with this one, adverse side effects are actually most common around a week after the shot, so I’m still watching him). Mind you, I wasn’t expecting a reaction, but was simply watching him in the unlikely event there was one.

So we had walked halfway around the block, where there’s a site where some land was recently cleared. Des likes to veer off into the newly-tilled ground there on our walks each night; apparently it’s great fun to run and jump on all the deep tractor tire ridges. He ran around like a wild man for a few minutes, and then we went on our way down the road. He came running up to us, out of breath from his exertion.

He said something to me, barely understandable because of his heavy breathing, and I looked down at him. I was horrified to notice that his lips were blue! Immediately, my mind went to that day’s vaccination, and I thought, “Blue lips! Oh my word, something’s wrong!”

PHILIP!” I cried, “His lips are blue!

Philip looked down at him and said with a chuckle, “Yeah, they sure are!”

Philip never panics. Never. Nothing shakes him. Clearly he was not grasping how serious this was.

“It’s from the shot today!”, I insisted, “Philip, he’s not breathing right…look, he’s gasping for breath! And HIS LIPS ARE BLUE!

Philip looked at me like I was crazy and said, “He’s out of breath because he was just running around like a fool. And of course his lips are blue. That’s from his Lik-M-Aid powder. He had some after dinner, just before we left.”

So now he tells me.

Panic averted.


08.12.2013 | 6:20 pm | Daily Life

We’ve been pulling all the old baby gear out of the attic and closets, in the hope of selling as much as possible in exchange for much-needed cash. I was listing my sling, and while I had a picture of it laying flat, I thought I might add a picture of what it looked like in use. So I searched my pictures folder and found one taken way back in 2007, when Des was just a tiny new babe tucked inside it during one of our evening walks.

Because Des seems to find it impossible that he was ever a baby, and also because he’d seen the sling and couldn’t recall ever being in it, I called him over to show him the picture, saying, “Look! There’s your head poking out of the sling. You were such a tiny baby then!” I explained to him that this is how I used to carry him on our walks. He studied the picture for a bit, and then asked, “Why do you look so different there?”

I looked at the image of myself, taken only 5 1/2 years ago, and realized why he’d asked that. The girl in the picture was young —even at 34, vibrant, and happy, with smiling eyes to go with the smile on her face. She was relatively thin even after having just given birth, her long, well-cared for blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail. She was even wearing makeup, something she’s not been prone to do without a good reason ever since she became a mom. But most of all, the girl was healthy.

Contrast the girl in the picture to the haggard, overweight, unkempt, unwell mother he now sees every day…and it’s easy to see exactly why he couldn’t put that girl and me now together as the same person.

I’m ashamed of how I look. Completely ashamed. I’ve never been beautiful, but I made peace with that years ago once I realized that I don’t have to be beautiful (as long as Philip thinks I am) :-), and have always taken pride in keeping myself looking my best. But now, after 18 months of enduring an illness that is truly indescribable, I have never been so out of shape, so fat, so unkempt…so not my best. And I’ve never in my life been in a place where there is absolutely nothing I can do about any of it. Being homebound due to the debilitating nature of my symptoms, I can’t even go out and get my hair cut & colored professionally; I have to do it here myself. And while I’ve learned how to cut the boys’ & Philip’s hair pretty well, I can’t cut my own hair for anything! Let’s just say my hair is a far cry from that perfectly-highlighted, cute blonde ponytail I was wearing 5 years ago, and leave it at that. It’s not pretty.

So back to Des’ question. It was completely innocent; he didn’t ask it to hurt me. He truly wanted to know why the mom he knows now looks so different from that healthy, vibrant, comparatively-beautiful person he saw carrying him in a sling when he was a baby.

But it did hurt. Oh, did it sting. It broke me to my core. To know that he sees how this sickness has devastated my body and changed my appearance. It magnified the shame I feel at what I’ve become, and the utter frustration I feel at being helpless to do anything to change any of it. He deserves better. Both my boys deserve better. For that matter, so does Philip.

Oh God, please…please hear the cry of my soul. Please, let this brokenness move you. I need healing so I can begin building a healthy, sound body again. My boys need a healthy, strong, vibrant mother again —for so many reasons.

On Becoming a Mother

08.6.2013 | 12:55 pm | Uncategorized

I read a piece today on mothering, and how difficult (understatement!) it is to find your way when you first become a mother— I experienced this shocking blow not just the first time around, but also the second time. Perhaps even moreso after my second was born, because of how utterly overwhelming it was to tend to an infant while also trying to be there for his older brother. I remember months’ worth of days where I was so exhausted, I could barely see straight.

Anyway, one of the things she said was absolutely perfect for describing those exhausting, sometimes brutal months and years spent mothering new babies and young children:

“It is overwhelming and completely exhausting, and figuring it all out is some of the most physically, mentally, emotionally, and heart-wrenching work you will ever do.”

Hear, hear!

How to Remove Latex Paint from Carpet

04.12.2013 | 7:27 pm | Uncategorized

I’ll save you the story of how I spilled dark brown paint on our light beige carpet, and get right to sharing how we successfully removed it, despite how bleak things looked when we first stared in horror at the ugly, dark splatter on our living room carpet.

Yes, we got it cleaned up completely, with no trace of paint or stain left behind. And amazingly, it was rather quick and easy! But the key to success is: Work quickly. If you let the paint dry, there’s not much hope that I know of.

First, take an old towel and use it to blot up the excess paint. Do not rub. Just press and blot, and turn the towel frequently. Get another towel if the first one gets soaked with paint quickly. Philip used his foot and put his weight on it.

Next, soak the stain with water. We put a drop of dish soap in a big cup, filled it with hot water, and then poured the soapy water directly onto the stained carpet until it was thoroughly soaked. Then we let it sit there while Philip called our neighbor, asked if we could borrow his wet/dry shop vac, and went over to get it. It took about ten minutes for him to make the call, go down to our neighbor’s house, and get back with the shop vac.

With the shop vac, suck up all that soapy water. This was the amazing step. The paint came right up with the water. After the first round of vacuuming, almost all the stain was gone from the carpet. There was just a hint of dark stain remaining.

Repeat, this time using a scrub brush with the soapy water. We poured another big cup of dish-soapy hot water onto the remaining hint of a stain, and this time, Philip used a scrub brush to work it into the fibers and gently “scrub” the carpet. Then he vacuumed up all the water again. The stain was almost completely gone. In fact, no one would ever know at that point that there had been a spill there, so it probably was completely gone.

But the perfectionist in me — if I stared at it in just the right light, at a particular angle — could see what might have been a hint of a dark stain left behind. So I added another step, which probably isn’t necessary, but was basically harmless as well as easy, so, why not?

(Optional Perfectionist Steps) Pour rubbing alcohol onto the scrub brush and gently scrub the carpet. Don’t pour alcohol directly onto the carpet! This can harm the backing, or cause some such problem— although I’ve used rubbing alcohol on other stains (ink, nail polish…yes, we’re a very destructive lot when it comes to spilling horrible liquids on carpet!), with no harm to the carpet that was worse than the stain itself. All I know is, rubbing alcohol dissolves latex paint. (In fact, a little trick to use if you move into a previously-owned house and want to know if paint on a wall is latex or oil-based, is to put rubbing alcohol on a rag and rub the wall. If paint comes off on your rag, it’s latex. If not, then it’s oil-based.)

After the rubbing alcohol scrub, there was absolutely no trace of paint left in the carpet at all! We did an extra rinse or two to make sure the alcohol was washed away completely, and then a final vacuum with the shop vac to remove as much water as possible.

The carpet now looks better in that spot than everywhere else in the room. Now I need my entire living room carpet cleaned to match the clean spot! ;-)

A New Thing

02.22.2013 | 8:26 pm | Uncategorized

I’ve been out of pocket for quite a while now. I’ve been sick for a year, and as I wait for healing, I’m going to kind of take the blog in a different direction. Because I’ve turned to a completely different direction in my life, and I need to sort it out. I’m not sure yet how I’ll do it…I’m considering maybe doing a separate blog, one that addresses the topic at hand and doesn’t interfere with my sporadic chronicling of our homeschooling endeavors.

So much within me has changed this past year, since I got sick. I mean big, fundamental changes, the likes of which I’ve not seen since I became a mother (you know how becoming a mom completely re-makes you as a person? And at first it’s quite distressing and very scary? Yeah. Same with this). During these last 12 months, I feel like God has completely taken me apart and has been putting me back together, one piece at a time— exactly the way he wants me to be. Which happens to be pretty much 180 degrees from the person I was on the day I became sick.

Simply put, I was a bad person, through and through, and no one, not even the Lord himself, had been able to get through my selfishness and change my heart. I was reckless and foolish, had spiraled down into the lowest of pits, and was getting close to throwing everything away that I’ve always held so dear.

So, I believe he allowed something into my life that would finally get my attention, because nothing else had yet been able to do it. This sickness —this bizarre, undiagnosed, baffling, absolutely terrifying, miserable sickness— is what at last brought me to my knees and to my senses. It brought me back to my God…

Weekly Wrap-Up – 1/27/12 – Catch-up!

01.27.2012 | 11:40 pm | Homeschooling

We’ve finished up another week of schooling, and I thought I’d update for once. We had a short week this week, because I was at the doctor’s office again on Monday (don’t ask).

Since it’s been a while, I’ll just condense a few weeks’ worth of fun into one update.

In math, G just finished up a thorough section on converting measures. We’ve also begun some very basic algebra, solving basic equations for “n” or “x”. There’s always lots of daily multiplication & long division review, and he’s up to the “nine” family in multiplication/division.

His language studies have involved studying capitalization, punctuation, synonyms, antonyms, homonyms, and how to write a friendly letter and thank-you notes. The latter was very timely, as we were just getting around to writing our thank-you notes for all the Christmas gifts from relatives and friends.

Recent writing lessons have been narration & dictation from biographies about Paul Bunyan and Harry Houdini. As a bonus, we learned some magic tricks. G’s writing skills are continually evolving.

History is always our favorite time of the morning. I’m especially enjoying the new volume of The Mystery of History, as we’re now into the Dark Ages/Early Middle Ages, and this period in history has always been fascinating to me.
Since Christmas we’ve studied the fall of the Western Roman Empire (very depressing, since our country is facing a very similar decline— and the effects on those who lived through it were devastating. It ushered in the Dark Ages, after all). We’ve studied daily life in the Dark Ages, including things like baking birds into pies, and how barbers got their striped poles…there are just so many fascinating things! We learned about the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes (did you know “England” got its name because it was known as “the land of the Angles”? You’re welcome. ;-) ). We covered the legend of King Arthur (which was possibly based upon a real warrior), and various early Christian saints. We’ve both been learning lots.

Cursive…oh, I remember last time I updated back in the fall, G was having a very difficult time with the introduction of cursive. We worked for weeks on the letter “a”, which was the first letter. Well, persistence pays off, because I kept making him practice, practice, practice, and eventually he just “got it”. Something clicked, and now he’s officially learned all the vowels, plus all the other letters up to “j”, and has figured out on his own how to do all the rest of the letters (but we’ll continue going through each one formally). His cursive is really quite beautiful, especially for a boy, and the crazy thing is, he loves doing it. He made the statement to me today, “Cursive writing is like reading: once you start, you just don’t want to stop!”. So funny.

Speaking of which, G is a reading machine lately; he’s been going well beyond his 30 minutes of required reading most days. I added a new shelf to my Goodreads account for his books; it’s a great way to keep track of his reading both for my records (and his!) and for the various reading incentive programs he takes part in. If you’re on Goodreads, look me up.

As for little D, he’s been doing very well at his schoolwork. At last update, he, also, was having a very difficult time learning to write. I didn’t expect much from him, and had decided not to sweat it— my concern right now is formally teaching him each letter’s sound, and writing can wait. But, he surprised me, too, when he suddenly began to master the basic concept of writing. He’s getting better at it every week.

He’s up to letter “J”; we just finished it up this week. He’s doing great. He already knows all the letter sounds, but we’re going week-by-week, one at a time, and really drilling the sound in with lots of activities & repetition.

We just finished featuring number 10 this week. I guess we’re just doing this for fun, because he can count to 100 and understands counting quite well. But he loves doing it, so we work on counting every day, after we do our letter work.

D loves schoolwork, which makes me happy! G loves his lessons every day, but doesn’t care much for the actual work he has to do after the lessons are over. Except for his daily cursive sheet, of course!

I really need to write out some posts on things I’ve learned about schooling these boys. Maybe I’ll have time to do it soon, but probably not. I stay pretty busy lately. One thing I’ve definitely proved over and over is that even when you (and they!) think they aren’t ready or able to do something, they really are. It just takes diligence, repetition, and lots of practice.

Weekly Wrap-Up — Or in this Case, Our First Four Weeks in Review

09.2.2011 | 4:02 pm | Homeschooling

Welcome to my first “Weekly Wrap Up” of the year! We’ve been back to schoolwork for about four weeks now, so this is going to be more like a wrap-up of our first month so far. First, I’ll cover G’s studies, as he’s the student covering the most subjects right now.

In Math we’ve been doing lots of review work (a big reason I’m changing to year-round schooling; more on that later). I double up on lessons when possible, so we’ve already gotten through 30 lessons, or 6 weeks’ worth of math done. I love being ahead so that we can take weeks off when the whim (or the need) arises.

Grammar has been all about adjectives, verbs, and identifying the subject of a paragraph. We found some cute, funny books at the library that cover each part of speech. Wish I could remember the name of some of them now— I’ll check next time we’re there. They made verbs, nouns, and pronouns very fun for him!

In history we’ve studied Hannibal, Spartacus, Julius Caesar, Marc Antony, Cleopatra, and Augustus Caesar. The Roman Empire makes for a very interesting study! When we studied Julius Caesar, we used army men to re-enact his infamous “Crossing of the Rubicon”. Then when we studied Cleopatra, we decided to re-enact her crazy stunt of having herself rolled up in a carpet and delivered to Julius Caesar. Gray was Caesar, sitting in his palace, and Des got to be Cleopatra, all wrapped up in a carpet (well, a quilt in our version!).

He’s back into writing, where he reads a passage of good literature and then summarizes it into his own words. This is such a great way of improving writing skills! The last few passages have been from biographies on Paul Revere, so he also got a little history and learned about the beginnings of the American Revolution.

We’ve just cracked open our first Apologia Science book- we’re starting with “Exploring Creation with Botany”. He’s going to be keeping a notebook for the first time as we study science.

Moving on to Little D, we’ve mainly practiced learning the very beginning stages of handwriting (tracing dotted lines), practiced counting to 20, and we’ve also introduced and covered the letter “A a” and its sound. I have him trying to learn to write the letter “A a”, and it’s definitely an exercise in patience. :D Which reminds me…

G is starting to learn cursive, and his first letter has been cursive “A a”. Wow, is he having the hardest time learning this skill! I just have him continuously practice until I see a line that has mostly perfect “A a”s. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll move on to the next letter next week.

For reading, G has gotten into reading the wonderful works of Roald Dahl. He’s gone through “The Fantastic Mr. Fox”, “The BFG” (which he absolutely loved), “The Magic Finger”, and “The Giraffe, the Pelly and Me”. He’s currently reading “The Witches”. It’s the last Dahl book we own; I’ve managed to find all those for less than a dollar each at thrift & consignment stores. Hopefully I’ll find “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and its sequel someday soon, because he wants to read those and any other Dahl books out there. He really enjoys Dahl’s dark (very dark) humor and writing style.

I mentioned earlier that I’ve decided to move to schooling year round. I’ll explain it in more detail in future post, but it boils down to the fact that taking 2-3 months off in a big block is really counter-productive where learning is concerned. It’s also silly to take all our time off in one block, during the hottest months of the year! It was an inferno out there this summer (still is!), and I think their time off will be much better spent and enjoyed when it’s taken when the weather is more pleasant. We’re going to be schooling for 5-6 weeks at a time, then taking off 1-2 weeks at a time. Year-round. And I’m looking forward to it!

Check out other Homeschoolers’ Weekly Wrap-Ups this week at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

« Previous Entries     Next Page »