Update On Us

We homeschool year round, but I have the summer off to some degree. My kids have planned it all out and will be dictating their routines for the most part. A few things are mandatory they must stick in here and there, drum lessons, horse riding lessons, piano lessons, volunteer work, etc…and they have decided to have specific days. ie: Monday is math day, Tuesday is history day, and so on…they plan to make their tv shows, iPad apps, board games, outdoor play, kitchen experiments, etc revolve around the theme of the day. Example, today is spanish day, so they will switch the language to spanish on the DVDs they watch and instead of their go to Pig Latin kid talk, they will attempt to speak spanish when possible, etc…

I do feel like I need to give an update since it’s been a LONG while since I’ve shared what were up to.

A while back I decided to do an experiment and give the kids what we called a “FREE WEEK”…

…in a nutshell, the kids were responsible for their sleeping times, eating times, food choices, entertainment and education. In a very free willy nilly sort of way. I was here to help them when they asked but overall they were in charge of themselves. I deleted everything from the calendar for a week. (Including canceling lessons they did not want to attend)

The point for me was to get a good idea of what they were capable of, how they handled their choices, where they still needed me to guide them, where they were more self sufficent, etc…

I do think much longer then a week is needed for a true assessment. Because a week does feel in some way like a holiday rather then a time to put on your boots and get to work.

I discovered (and more importantly THEY discovered) there were still many areas mom was very needed! Which is a good thing IMHO!

They were very curious why no friends came over to play. I asked them if they arranged any play dates. Hmmm might be the reason. Planning is needed to make things happen. Good lesson for them to learn.

Why they don’t have any clean pants. I asked if they did their laundry? Hmmmm must wash clothes in order to have clean clothes. Another good lesson…but mostly they just realized mom does the laundry and didn’t this week, so they opted to wear alternative outfits over the favorites until mom washed again. (Which spurred mom to buy separate laundry baskets for each child and unknown to them, they are slowly learning to take over their own laundry washing, drying, folding and putting away! Darn sneaky mom!)

Aside from a few really good learning opportunities/discussions. And great examples of what could be handled better, it was a blissful week for ALL of us.

We all were doing exactly what we wanted all day long for an entire week! Yes I did not hear one single bicker from the kids. They were so happy doing their own thing. I accomplished a ton because they didn’t demand as much of my attention as they normally do.

HOWEVER the amount of Minecraft they played was insane for my liking. (I fondly refer to Minecraft as Mindcrap, even though I know there are lots of great learning opportunities around the game…it’s the intensity of time suck I don’t like)

Since it was free week, I figured eventually my son would have his fill, get a neck cramp, something and stop playing…nope, he played the entire week nearly all day every day! My daughter would stop mid day and go do something else, but come back to it in the evening.

They did build some amazing structures, learned a bunch from tutorials online, took on challenges and played well in each others worlds. But like I said the intensity of the Minecraft take over was not a long term OK thing with me, so we had a little Minecraft detox the following week. We are now back on a healthy level of video games from mama’s perspective.

Aside from free week, we’ve had horse riding adventures, rock climbing adventures, and a bunch if fun with friends. Spring time always sheds away the winter chill and gets us outside and active.

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I think repelling is what they love the most!

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And shortly after this adventure they wanted to practice bouldering (no harness, height they are comfortable with jumping down from)

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Recently, my daughter took some of her girl friends on a trail ride (some of her friends had never been on a horse, so you can see trail walkers near each horse for the riders safety) my son played Mindcrap with his friends (the brothers of the horse riders) it was a perfect day for all involved. Haha!

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While school kids are finishing up their last few weeks of school, I hear my public school mama friends tell me about their busy end of school year calendar chaos. It reminds me how very blessed we are to be homeschooling. We are enjoying all this warm weather having fun with friends and not in a busy chaotic frenzy.

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place

Written by Maryrose Wood

Here are some links to find Maryrose Wood’s books on amazon.

Link for book one: http://amzn.com/B0037B6QVQ
Link for book two: http://amzn.com/B0045U9WLO
Link for book three: http://amzn.com/B005LC0S3Q
Link for book four: http://amzn.com/B0098S32EG

I get nothing from this shout out, but it is one of those things homeschooling mamas have to share regardless! πŸ™‚

These books are fabulous! My kids LOVE them and are very excited to find out a fourth book is coming out in December!

We have recently listened to the audio version because to be honest my British accent is horrible! I highly suggest the audio versions! The character voices are super!

The author’s blog http://maryrosewood.com has additional games and “incorrigible extras” along with more info about her books!

If you are looking for an excellent story book all ages (adults included) will enjoy with various lessons and tid bits of proper etiquette tossed in here and there in a fun way, this is a fantastic series IMHO!

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! πŸ™‚

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.

Reading Tree Motivation

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I wasn’t planning on starting the reading tree until we started our official new year, but the kids had different ideas and so we already have a few new leaves up and I’m pleasantly surprised at my daughters reading level…might ditch the BOB books as she appears to be farther along.

Listening to my son read skippyjon jones with a Spanish accent made me realize he might get the Spanish language better than French…but lucky for him he’s stuck learning both haha!

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It is such a treat to take a break from laundry, house chores and other misc not as important tasks to sit down and listen to a story read out loud by your child. Hearing their voices tackle challenging words, see the pride when they conquer that word, hug them and encourage them when they are frustrated. It is so special to get to be a part of the process. I love it!

Adventures in Science

We had some great friends over for a play date. My idea was to hand this box of experiments over to the kids and just expect chaos, mess and see what they came up with…while mamas relaxed and chatted the afternoon away…

…It proved to not be the day for self exploration, think the full moon was effecting our day…haha! The kids needed more assistance then I was expecting. I probably should have had four kits, my bad! We did experience some chaos…haha!

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However we did (thanks to the help of super mom…not me…my fellow homeschooling mama friend!) accomplish a few successful experiments. A glow in the dark rubber bouncy ball and some oozing glow in the dark growing balls.

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It’s a fun kit with a great experiment book and some recipes for experiments to do with household items. I will attempt self exploration again on a day the kids seem more up for it. I THINK it’s something I could strew on a different day…we shall see…I’ll keep you posted.

Questions & Answers

My son has this tid bit of infoΒ he has been clearly mentally processing, he then announced it to his sister in a very authoritative tone of voice. (Missing the point that she didn’t ask for his lesson haha!)

At school you don’t learn anything because you only remember questions that are asked, the teacher just says stuff without letting you ask many question, like at my old school there was a rule of only three questions per day per person.

I’m not sure of that said rule at his old school, but I have heard other parents state similar rules in their children’s schools, so I know they exist and it is possible he had a similar rule….

Anyhow, its great info! Important info really…we all retain far more of what we are interested in than random trivia we are not interested in.

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On that thought I have been observing the questions asked and giving them special consideration before blindly dismissing or giving a less than answer.

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This morning the kids decided to dump out their piggy banks and look at their money. My son can count his money, but my daughter is still learning how to count money. I watch as she lays out all the coins. She asks me how much a quarter is again? I tell her twenty-five cents. She asks how much a pence is (clearly harboring some left over coins from our last visit to the UK) I answer her. Then she asks my son to teach her how to count her money. He leaps at the chance to play teacher. She is thrilled to be taught. I might just get out of teaching money this year! πŸ˜‰

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He explains that here the pence doesn’t really count, which then brings loads of questions about money from different countries and why they count there but not here. I love hearing him explain it to her. I only jumped in where things got somewhat tricky to explain, but for the most part my son was fairly impressive of his foreign money knowledge. I didn’t know he had that knowledge! Another blessing of homeschooling, really truly getting to know the ins and outs of what goes on inside your kiddo’s mind!

Strewing, I’m a Strewer, Are You???

I love to strew activities around for my kids to find and explore. Today I caught a few photos of strewing in action!

My daughter was painting earlier while my son was totally engrossed in history channels documentary Ancient Aliens series. Painting was the last thing on his mind.

After a while I noticed my daughter had moved on to building circuit boards with our snap circuit kits. (Which were conveniently set out)

(Side note: awesome toy alert!)

I hated to waste the paint she didn’t use up, so I took it outside and put it on a table near the sand box. (I knew they would be our near the sand box this afternoon)

One of the kids chores today was to remove old sand box toys for goodwill. As they started removing toys, they decided they didn’t want any of the toys, just the sand, some rocks, shells and the water hose. (Another moment that supports more natural simply play over plastic crap toys!)

And I digress a lot! Such is life as a masterful multitasker haha! πŸ˜‰

Point is, there was that paint, just sitting there while the kids cleaned out/played in the sand box. Not noticed at first.

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Then after a little while…my son discovered it and decided he wanted to paint some rocks….

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My daughter was engrossed in flooding the sand box and making her own sand creations.

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But it wasn’t too long before she discovered her pet rocks needed some eyeballs! And the paint happen to be right there.

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I love how activities lead into others so smoothly. My son was clearly still processing the earlier documentary’s information when he decided to build ancient alien inspired cities, walls, artifacts, etc in the sand box.

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A quick toy tidy chore with cleverly places supplies turned into nearly two hours of fantastic creative personally inspired educational play.

Strewing is such a fantabulous way to give mama a quiet moment to sip some tea and the kids a chance to love learning. All I did was set the paints outside and assign a tidy up chore. Win win for all!!!

As I type I overheard the kids making plans to become paleontologists and the adventure of finding a freshly painted dinosaur tooth (aka stick) in the sand box, who will hide it, who will find it, the outfits they need to change into first, who will wear what, etc…the plans are almost as much fun as the adventures….oh to be a kid again! πŸ™‚