Beetle Bailey Wins the War on Math Today

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While doing some boring old math drill practice…I notice the comic strip section of the paper has caught my son’s eye…guessing I will need to record more reading then math for this hour! Haha!

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Nature Mama in the Technology World.

Anyone else torn between the two worlds? The fantastic ever changing and advancing technology world and the desire to live a bit more like the Ingalls family on Little House on the Prairie? Well I find myself torn between these two worlds often.

Currently we have had to put a limit on technology in our house. We refer to the time spent on any of the many electronic devices available for entertaining ones self as “TECH TIME.” Because my son in particular could happily “tech hop” all day long, we’ve had to set tech time boundaries

Tech hopping is when your child turns off the tv and starts playing a game on the ipad, then sets the ipad down only to start playing a video game on the computer or Wii, Play station, Xbox, etc…And never seems to GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY!

We started a log where the kids can EARN their tech time during the week and spend it allllllll weekend long if they want, then come Monday morning a fresh start, any tech time unused is cleared and they must earn new tech time for the following weekend.

We started off with tasks we wanted to see more of, each family can choose tasks that meet their needs, but this plan is brilliant if I do say so myself! Here’s why: if the kids nag about tech time during the week, they loose time. (so no nagging) if the kids want to earn tech time they can by accomplishing the tasks mom and dad have been nagging about lately. (no mom and dad nagging) on the weekend the kids can happily be plugged in allowing mom and dad to sleep in, read, sip their tea, exercise or do whatever it is mom and dad want to do without interruptions. (I personally like sleeping in on the weekends!)

Some of the tasks we set for our family (to give ideas) were: 15 minutes of tech time earned for every hour spend outside playing (not including scheduled outside time or play dates) Since we home school we added 15 minutes of tech time for every hour of school work without complaints/protests, but rather steady happy work time. 5 minutes for using the Sonicare toothbrush for two minutes morning and night vs their manual brushes, 5 minutes for making the bed in the morning, 15 minutes for noticeable table manners at all three meals, 5 minutes for taking a bath without reminders, 15 minutes of tech time for every hour spend reading a book. (need to give narration for credit) etc…I’m sure you can think of things you need to run a bit more smoothly in your house.

If the kids really worked hard they could virtually earn enough hours of tech time to be plugged in all weekend long, so we capped it off at TEN hours max! Which is A LOT!, breaks down to two hours a day during the work week. This past week my kids earned 4.25 and 4.5 hours, which is wayyyyy less then they were getting previously during the week combined. So that was another bonus. Even if they did earn all ten hours, that still breaks down to the recommended two hours per day max set by some parenting something somewhere…you know some expert somewhere.

Occasionally during the week, I need the kids to watch a documentary for school, or practice an educational app on the ipad, etc…and in those cases, that tech time does not count towards earned time.

During the week, the kids are spending a lot of their days in nature again. They have built projects that sat collecting dust in the past. They are creating their own games, learning old ones, excited about a trip to the library again. They have read to one another and what mother doesn’t love seeing her kids read to each other! So sweet! Melts this mamas heart!

Our weeks are full of joyful natural experiences again and I can live in my sweet natural Laura Ingalls world. Then on the weekends I can be lazy, sleep in, have adult conversations with my husband and know I’m not holding my children back in the technology world by never having them experience the technology world. Currently my kids are very into all the coding games, so maybe coding is in their future, and maybe they will spend all day on a computer in their future careers, but they will also know how to grow food and enjoy the simple natural things in life too.

Finding balance in this fast paced world and holding on to the simple peaceful pleasures life can offer takes work. I’d love to hear how your family balances between nature and technology!

Tis The Season To Be Busy…Fa La La La La La La

I haven’t been keeping up on my blog, because life just has a way of speeding by during this time of the year. We arrived home from our vacation and came home to boom boom boom a long list of events…We start off with Harvest, then Halloween, then Thanksgiving (and Thanksgivukkah this year for our Jewish friends) and POOF Christmas is right around the corner.

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On this particularly busy day, it was a super crazy day. I was going all day and exhausted. The kids were off playing and I saw a window for myself to just have a calm quiet cup of tea. I made myself a cup of tea, got a book, a couple extra cushions for the patio chair, settled myself down. Look over and see this! Seriously! Really? You gotta be kidding me! Ever have days like this!?! Well you aren’t alone! 😉

Here is a photo blog of what has been keeping us so busy and hopefully that will release me of my poor blogging skills guilt! (there’s always hope right!?!? ha ha!) It should make the family happy to have current photos of the kiddos doing what they do. 🙂

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Harvest Time – We generally spend a little time in the vineyard picking grapes with the crews. They often will save us a small plot to pick, because to be honest the crews are MUCH MORE efficient then we are. They can clear three or four rows in the same time we pick our small patch. But it is still fun to be a part of the harvest, eat a few grapes, dodge a few bees, learn hands on what a harvest really is about.

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Horse riding lessons – Each week the kids have horse riding lessons with an amazing trainer. Each week they alternate between English, Western & Vaulting lessons. Their balance and spatial awareness is growing leaps and bounds! In this photo the horse is walking. She is learning various vaulting skills at walk and trot.

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Science Experiments – This was a science kit explaining quick sand. After this experiment I found a better recipe online and we created a larger bowl of “quick sand” that occupied the kids for days and sadly killed many small plastic animals. (no worries though, all were saved by the dishwasher!)

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Pumpkin Patch Farm With Homeschooling Friends – we spent about 6 hours at this farm enjoying every aspect of it. Seeing the fields on a tractor hay ride, running thru hay mazes, feeding the farm animals, shopping their fresh product, eating yummy treats in their restaurant. It was a great day and the kids (mama too!) were tuckered out afterwards!

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And of course we carved pumpkins…Jack O’lanterns are always so much fun!

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More BIG NEWS – “Mom Dad, come see” – sooo we head outside and there she is, riding her brothers bike without training wheels. Apparently big brother helped her learn how to ride his bike. We were able to see the first steps as he ran behind her on his bike, hilariously cute! So dad took the trainers off HER bike and she “relearned” on her bike…she is very proud of her new-found skills!

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And of course “SCHOOL TIME” – both kiddos enjoy desk work (believe it or not!) I have my theories on why my kids think school work is fun…pretty much has to do with the fact it’s THEIR CHOICE.

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“SURFING” on Grandpa’s back – I remember doing these things with my dad as a child and it’s fun to see my kids enjoying the same adventures. He would throw us up in the air, across the pool, we’d swim on his back and pretend he was a dolphin, Surf across the pool on his back. And it appears he still has the touch!

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Homeschool Park Day – Halloween party for the homeschoolers. Some people believe homeschoolers are unsocialized and they never get to play with their peers. I will tell you during this fun adventure I heard a lot of the kids using their words to say things like “please pass the stickers” or “thank you” I didn’t see any pushing, shoving or grabbing going on. I’d say they were very well-mannered and displayed great social skills.

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Trick or Treat – Halloween is always fun! This year we celebrated with some friends. The kids ran from door to door and then afterwards enjoyed a good old fashion candy swap. I think all the kids felt they came out ahead!

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School Math the next day included Candy sorting, charting, adding and the kids favorite SUBTRACTING (aka eating!)

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Homeschool Park Day – Each week we get together with homeschool friends for park day and it is always so fun to see the older kids helping the younger kids and all the kids having fun together just being kids! I love it! So much joy!

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We made a little road trip to see JACK HANNA in action! he brought a bunch of wild animals to share with us and teach us some interesting facts about animals and various areas in the world.

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Our reading tree is SLOWLY filling. We actually have read way more books, but we unfortunately keep forgetting to add them to the tree. Each item is for a different reading situation, the animals are for chapter books, acorns for readers, leaves for story books, etc…

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Rain Gutter Regatta – This is a cub scouts event. The boys build sail boats and then using their breath power they blow the boat in a race down rain gutters. Its great fun and the kids all design great vessels!

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More School Time – they love their desks and it cracks me up every time they happily work away at their desks asking for more work.

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Another opportunity to do some math, geography, foreign language and character work – each year about this time, Samaritan’s Purse puts on the OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD program http://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/ and each year I give the kids a budget and a list of approved items. I take them shopping and they can choose what they want to go into their shoe box. They need to stay within budget. They need to scout out items that are on the list and fit in their box. They deliver the boxes to a local church and see all the work people put into making Christmas special for others. They learn about giving. We purchase tracking codes so we can track what country our boxes go to and learn more about that area. And they HOPE a child will return a letter one day. This year we wrote our letter in a couple of languages hoping someone would translate for the receiver. We shall see.

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We read a bunch of books on nature and animal tracks. One of the books suggested looking for an OWL during the day. So we headed out in search of tracks, owls and owl pellets. (which is owl puke, some people think it’s poop. The owl eats a WHOLE mouse and then the fur and bones bundle up together during digestion and the owl pukes it out)

We did find lots of tracks, bobcats, deer, pigs, coyotes, birds, and our dogs! ha ha! At the base of several trees we searched for owl pellets. We looked at the tippy tops of many trees. No owls and no owl pellets. But lucky for us, Amazon.com sells owl pellet kits and has two-day shipping! ha ha!

The kits are great, because they come with little bone charts and the kids can pretend they are paleontologists, digging around for bones and then placing them back together to see if they have a whole animal!

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When it was all over the kids drew pictures and wrote about it in their nature journals.

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On occasion we get to do school with our homeschooling friends.

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and we also get to do pizza parties and arcade games with our homeschooling friends.

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We have a few family traditions that make our Thanksgiving one of our favorite holidays! For starters we eat venison instead of turkey. 1) we’re pretty sure they had venison at the first thanksgiving meal. and 2) no one in our family likes turkey, so who wants to spend all day cooking a big old bird no one will eat. We have a TURKEY SHOOT, which is great fun! The kids blow up surgical gloves and we decorate them to look like turkeys. Take them down to the shooting range and take turns shooting the turkeys. (We use both rifles and bows) And last but certainly not least, we have a pumpkin toss. And all of those pumpkins we collected are tossed down the canyon. We see who can throw the farthest, highest, funniest, etc… Then we hike down the canyon and smash the pumpkins open, getting any aggression out on the poor little pumpkins! ha ha! But this opens them up so nature can take its course and the pumpkins do their part in the cycle of life.

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And then comes the food coma! I couldnt eat another bite!

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We also have piano recitals that keep us moving and grooving!

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Before you know it, it is Christmas tradition time! Poof, three months has flown by! This year for the first time, the kid’s gingerbread houses don’t look like a candy/frosting factory puked on them. This is the first year they both decided to follow some suggested ideas in the directions! I was both impressed and sad to be honest. I was impressed with how well their houses came out (one is in the background, but you can still see it, lovely icicles!) But I was sad to know their childish glops of frosting and uneven gum drops were days of the past now. It has spurred a field trip. We are going to go check out a bakery that makes professional gingerbread houses and see how they do their amazing decorating tricks.

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And with Christmas comes the shelf elves! Meet Sir SugarSocks MacMistletoe and his lady elf friend. They get into mischief in our house on occasion, but for the most part they are decent elves that simply report to Santa how the kids are doing throughout the season!

Please forgive my lack of blogging lately, but as you can see we have been keeping busy with events, friends, family and school.

French Meals

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Before our trip, I was looking forward to grand French meals with an element of surprise. I thought I would practice before the trip and hit up a local french restaurant with some friends. I blindly pointed to some unknown meal and said “I’d like this please”

A while later the waiter puts in front of me a ham and cheese sandwich covered in white sauce. I looked at my friends wondering who’s meal this was, because I didn’t order a ham and cheese sandwich. That seemed too American. I was expecting something a bit more exotic. I said to the waiter, “I think this must be someone else’s meal, I didn’t order this” He appeared very confused, because apparently I did order it! Haha! I simply forgot, I had no clue what I ordered. Haha!

I apologized. Realizing that was tricky and this transaction was in my native tongue, English! How in the world would that have gone over in France with my broken french?!? I was certain to be poofed out of the restaurants in France!

I happily ate a ham and cheese sandwich, rethinking my just point and eat plan. I knew I wouldn’t point to “tar tar” as that’s raw meat, but anything else should be fine…right? (Yes, I knew all about snails and frog legs, I was mentally prepared for that, just wasn’t ready for ham-n-cheese sandwiches)

One of the first restaurants we found during our stay in the french country side was a western themed Buffalo Bill place. When we walked in, they spoke English and had American country music playing. It felt a touch twighlight zonish. Were we in France or Alabama…we weren’t sure?

During our stay in Paris, we rented an apartment, which was very nice. We were able to get to know our community, the bakery, market, playground, etc…

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Our children enjoyed having “normal” food now and then at “home.”

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As normal as snails can be, haha! Yup, when in France do as the french do. We bought escargot at the market and gave it a whirl back at our apartment. Thank heavens because comedy it was. Pure comedy! Nothing a nice proper french restaurant would have enjoyed seeing. Haha!

My daughter was a brave soul and even though snails are one of her favorite pets. Yes, we do actually have pet snails in a terrarium here at home in the states. She decided to try one. There in our kitchen my daughter and I shared the french experience, I doubt either of us will forget.

Chewing for days on what tasted like the worst over cooked leathery meat dipped in the best garlic buttery sauce one could imagine…unsure why they waste such amazing sauce on snails when lobster would be MUCH BETTER dripping in that green garlic buttery heaven. I swallow. I look at my daughter, her face is hilarious! She has been chewing for what seemed like eons. Thinking she must be confusing it for gum because one would have naturally swallowed by now, she looks at me with a disgusted face and says “do I need to swallow this or keep chewing?” I laugh, my heart melts a little for her sweetness! And I tell her it’s ok to spit it out if she doesn’t want to swallow it. She promptly leans over the sink and viola, a chewed to a pulp remain plops into the sink. No sauce in sight, the sauce is great we both agreed, but we could do without the snail bit!

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I ate a second one just to make sure my first experience was accurate….it was. My daughter proceeded to clean out and wash all the shells in hopes of making a pretend pet snail game.

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Nearly the whole time my son was off on the balcony trying to get away from the snail adventure to his best ability! Plugging his ears, closing his eyes and repeatedly asking, begging loudly “can we please stop talking about eating snails, please…please can you please stop talking about the snails…pleeeease???” (Accompanied by some dry heaving motions and gags!)

At times the kids were finding it tricky to find meals they enjoyed, so we splurge to their request for McDonalds. Something we do not do at home, but we are on holiday in France and well french McDonalds must be out of this world. After all their french fries have to be amazing, right?!? Haha! The park pigeons enjoyed the french fries for sure!

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I did end up gaining a whopping ten pounds while on holiday. We had some of the most amazing bread, cheese and wine…but I have concluded that to offset the bread cheese and wine, they stay thin by spending a great deal of time in a cafe sipping coffee and smoking cigarettes like chimneys, something I did not do, but could see the point of it now. Haha!

Overall, my french food experience wasn’t bombastic, but I have hopes of returning with my husband when the kids are older and giving it a more grown up chance.

How American Homeschoolers Measure Up

For those with skeptical family and friends, this bit of homeschooling info is always handy to have in your back pocket! 🙂

Homeschooled: How American Homeschoolers Measure Up
Source: TopMastersInEducation.com

Independence Day!

I have decided to start expecting more of my children. I have run a few experiments in the past regarding their basic needs. Like for example, if I don’t supply breakfast, what will happen. Will they tell me they are hungry? Will they get something to eat? Will they ask me to make them something to eat? If I don’t remind them to get dress for the day, will they stay in jammies all day? Will they get dressed to go outside and play? At what time of day will they get dressed? Will they dress appropriately for the weather? Etc…

Well my son got dressed immediately after waking up. My daughter stayed in Jammie’s the entire day. Neither of them mentioned hunger or desire for food until 2:00 in the afternoon! And I replied to their request with, “you can get a snack off the snack tray yourself or wait for me to finish what I’m doing to get you something”…they both replied they’d wait for me to get them something to eat!

This is NOT going to do IMHO! So with the help of jet lag (earlier wake up and bedtimes) I started a new routine that I hope will stick. But the process is slow and painful for mama!

This new routine involves being dressed for the day (mama Lou included) by 7am. Fixing their own breakfast under my supervision. So far they are mastering pancakes, hard-boiled eggs, and toast. The painful part comes in watching how slooooooow the process is, when I can whip out breakfast in a flash…but they have to become more independent or their future spouses will never speak to me.

We accomplish our three Rs and if we haven’t taken too long in doing so, then I toss in another subject…if the day seems to be dragging on or the work has been tough, that’s it for sit down work. We might listen to story of the world later while driving to park day for some playtime (aka socializing!)

Then we mustn’t forget lunch…grilled cheese, peanut butter & honey or jam sandwiches are what they are mastering at the moment. And again a very slooooow process of getting the step stool, plugging in the griddle, getting the butter bell, getting the butter knife, spreading the butter…oh wait need to get the bread, get the cheese, and well you know the rest…step by step…

Cleaning up after themselves is constant as all mothers know, but we are taking it to another level which requires me to be on top of two people in different rooms sometimes making multiple messes….training them to not start a new game until the other mess is cleaned up…and not just cleaned up, but put back where it belongs the way it was when it was found, is a daunting task for someone who finds it much easier to kick the kids outside to play and tidy up in peace & quiet.

While I wait for my photos to arrive, so I can share with you a great family holiday, I’m spending my days (which used to be more relaxed and easy-going) setting up a routine and teaching some independence skills to my children. The thought is once that independence kicks in, we can go back to a more relaxed mode without having to worry that my kids will never change their underwear or eat a healthy morsel of food on their own! Haha!

Quick Easy Organic and Yummy Science Experiment

Yesterday the kids wanted to know why I don’t love them eating straight butter, even though I did as a child. We talked about fat content in our diets. How fats should be in smaller amounts.

This discussion quickly moved into liquids and solids and the components of butter, where it comes from, how you make it etc…

My kids have made butter in the past so I assumed they knew all about it, but over time (even with hands on experiments) info is lost and needs a refresher. So off to the market to buy organic cream we go.

We poured a little cream into a jar (forgot the marble, some people recommend putting a marble or penny in the bottle) we gently and consistently took turns at shaking the jar.

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You can see the liquid and fat separating. Many people drain the liquid off. Some use it in other ways. (All worth researching online) We just kept on shaking haha! So we ended up with really creamy butter.

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Some folks add salt too. We were going to use this butter up on grilled cheese sandwiches so I opted for no salt.

I highly encourage you to make some butter with your kids. Its great fun and very interesting to see the different stages. Lots of opportunity for science discussions there.

I also encourage you to use organic cream. Who knows what is in our food these days with all the toxic chemicals, hormones and genetically modified foods. And worse companies that refuse to label their foods properly.