Friday, July 31, 2009

Busy Weekend and MommyK and Princess Pea's Trip to the Indianapolis Zoo

A good friend of mine that moved to Michigan came back to visit our family this past weekend. When I met her, we'll call her Andy, Sid the Science Kid was under 2 and Princess Pea was only a few weeks. Andy's little girl, little-friend-Kia, was only a few weeks also. Since then I have had three more kids and she has had two more. It's been fun to watch our families grow together. It went better than expected to have 4 adults and 7 children in our three bedroom home for two nights. We went to our local zoo together on Sunday with both families and a local splash park on Monday. When Andy went down to Indy to complete their vacation, I decided to take Princess Pea to meet them down at the Indy Zoo on Tuesday. Princess Pea and little-friend-Kia are good friends, though Angelica Pickles and Sid also claim her as their best friend, too. It was a fun little trip and the girls had a blast. I ended up staying the night at Mr. Prince's request because he didn't want me driving 2 hours at midnight. A fun, memorable vacation with just my oldest girl. Here are some photos of the kids at both zoos and the splash park. I would like to take my family back to the Indy zoo next summer.

Fort Wayne Zoo photos:

Sid the Science Kid (6), little-friend-Kia's brother G (2), Princess Pea (4), little-friend-Kia (4) and Angelica Pickles (3)

Daddy and Boo Boo - I love this shot!

All the kids got to feed the giraffes some lettuce - a new exhibit at our zoo!

The Drums were part of the African Journey.

Boo Boo's favorite exhibit - the Penguins!!!

So cute! Sid the Science Kid and little-friend-Kia.

Splash Park photos:

Indy Zoo photos:

Little-friend-Kia and Princess Pea got to meet Sophie the Elephant up close. They had fun comparing their own body parts to the elephants.

This polar bear exhibit was neat because you could see it above ground and below when it was swimming! We watched the polar bear for a long time because Baby Manny, Andy's youngest, had a blow-out...

I've never seen a rhino up close!

This was so cool....they got to pet dog sharks!!! They were really stinky by the end, though...

The girls were exhausted by the end of the day. They didn't go to bed until almost midnight!! It was a fun trip, though! Four days of non-stop fun with Andy and her family!

Our Homeschool Schedule

I have found it useful to read how other homeschool families schedule their time, so I thought I would post our schedule. Now, this is all good and dandy in theory, so I'll have to post later to see if it all works out according to plan. We were supposed to start school this week, but after a visit from some family friends, an unexpected trip to Indianapolis, and an exhausted pregnant mom who just couldn't get the energy to start mid-week, we are now a week behind schedule. We did do the whole week of science today, and the kids had a blast. We also finished a long picture book on Leif Ericson in preparation for our Viking week of history. So, I'm hoping to move along quickly next week, as the kids are so excited they would probably do school 24/7 right now!

I took my scheduling inspiration from Managers of their Homes (MOTH). I definitely believe that my children can do anything for 30 min, but after that it's touch and go whether or not they will get bored, be bickering or get into mischief. So, I've tried to plan my day accordingly. I would love to fit in each child playing with another sibling one-on-one, but I just don't have enough hours in the day. And, I think that everything "school" related, all my kids will want to participate in. So, trying to do something separate with each child doesn't work as well around here. Many of our subjects will actually only take 15 of the 30 min scheduled, so the kids will have much more playtime than it looks here. But, with a new baby coming soon and nursing and multiple diapers changes coming, I have to leave some wiggle room. Thus, here is my daily schedule:

7-8am Klan plays in rooms quiety if awake and are sure to tidy before coming downstairs at 8, Mommy showers and gets breakfast ready

8-8:30 Breakfast, bible story read from preschoolers bible, children clean table when finished

8:30-9 Klan brushes their teeth and get dressed and we go over house rules and the calendar, Mommy feeds Boo Boo breakfast when he wakes

9-9:30 Mommy has preschool with Angelica Pickles and Sid the Science Kid and Princess Pea do their Helping Habits (vacuum under Boo Boo's high chair, feed the cat, wipe down the table, empty dishwasher) and then have play time together

9:30-10 Bible and Character Training for everyone - a program I created

10-11 Outside play time if it's nice and a Nature walk on Fridays followed by writing in our nature journals, Nap time for Boo Boo

11-11:30 My Father's World/Sonlight science (I have intertwined them together) for everyone and some different activities if Angelica Pickles doesn't want to be involved

11:30-12 Mommy makes lunch while the kids tidy toys and do their Helping Habits (fill water cups for lunch, wipe down table, get silverware and napkins for lunch)

12-12:30 Lunch while Mommy does a read aloud or plays patriotic music we are learning

12:30-1 Klan cleans up after lunch and does more Helping Habits (vacuum, wipe table, clean baby's tray) and than has some free play time

1-1:30 Finish notebook activities or independant work (copywork, Junior Bible Quiz, piano, etc) for Sid the Science Kid, Mommy does Horizon's math K and Bob books with Princess Pea and Angelica Pickles does an Activity bag or watches a Leap Frog video to learn her phonics

1:30 Nap time for Angelica Pickles, My Father's World history with Sid and Princess Pea

2-2:30 All About Spelling with Sid and Princess Pea and Jump Start Spanish if we have extra time

2:30 Nap for Princess Pea and Boo Boo, Grammer (First Language Lessons) and Horizon's math 2 for Sid

3-4 Independant work for Sid and reading assignments, Mommy's downtime for sewing, reading, planning or cleaning

4-5 Outside play time if it's nice

5-5:30 Dinner prep, Helping Habits, tidy toys

5:30-6 Dinner, Devotion with Daddy

6-6:30 Clean up dinner, Helping Habits, play time

6:30-7:30 Outside play time

7:30 Bedtime for girls

8pm Bedtime for Sid

8:30 Bedtime for Boo Boo

So, I think it will work well. It seems like we are doing school all day, but again, most lessons are around 15 minutes. Today I got all of science done for the whole week in less than 1 hour! I am just hoping to set a routine where the kids know what is coming next so I'm not constantly repeating our schedule to them. I might make a little chart with pictures that would help, but I have a feeling they will ask anyway.

I am definitly interested to hear about other homeschool schedules, so if you pass by here please post a link to your schedule so I can see it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What I'm Learning from Macaulay's book For the Children's Sake

I have had this book for a year or two. My mother-in-law raved about it, along with many other Charlotte Mason homeschool moms, but I've never made it past the intro. I guess I am not really interested in Charlotte Mason as a person, but I love her thoughts on education and parenting. Once I got to the meat of it, it has been wonderful and enlightening. I'll just share a few thoughts as I work through this book.

I love the idea of having my children be outside for hours each day. It sounds lovely and dandy, but it's unfortunately not realistic. If they are outside, I am outside. If they spend all day outside, I get nothing done inside. If I lived back in the day when you could just send your kids out to play alone, it would all work out. But, I don't. And I don't have an 8 foot lockable privacy fence either. My goal is to get them outside at least once a day, if not more. I have three outings scheduled into our "summer" homeschool schedule and a nature study for every Friday. So, I'm hoping to give them more time outside. I saw how valuable this was when we were on vacation. They spent HOURS together without arguing, unlike when they are cooped up inside. Usually 30-40 minutes together straight is their max and then someone gets upset, hurt or angry. And, even when they faught, they worked it out amongst themselves most of the time since we weren't right there to "offer" our help. So, I agree the outdoors do wonders for children's imaginations and growth, I just hope I can offer something of good value in this altered form.

Narration is talked about a lot with Charlotte Mason. A child telling you their version of a story or what they understood of something you read about. My children do this without hesitation. My girls "read" the stories over and over again at nap and bedtime and can retell the stories almost perfectly to someone else. I've even seen my 3-year-old "reading" a story to my 1-year-old after only hearing the story once! They act out stories amongst themselves and my son even makes books and draws pictures about what he's read, all unprompted.

Love, love, love this quote!

"The Bible teaches that we are like parts of a body. In other words, we are different from each other, we all have different gifts. How immoral to apply an arbitrary yardstick to the little child and expect him to progress at some "normal" speed! We take from him the joy of accomplishing new skills which should be a part of growing up."

She talks then about how we cheer on a 3-year-old who learns to ride a tricycle because it is a personal accomplishment. But, how is a child who recieves a D in a subject at school going to notice his accomplishments that he's made in the year with a negative symbol attached to him that tells him he didn't live up to someone's standard? He can't even have joy in the accomplishments he did have! Oh, how I hate the school system. It's such a broken system. And I'm an educator! A friend of mine is worried when our two girls, who are both 4-years-old, get together this weekend that her daughter might feel inferior to my daughter because Princess Pea has learned to read since the last time they saw each other. So, how do we accomplish this mind-set in real life? How do we avoid the little girl feeling inferior when her friend is praised for an accomplishment? I told my friend to tell her daughter that we all learn to read in our own time, that she is moving very quickly toward reading on her own and that everyone should be happy for others when they learn something new. We'll see how it works out.... But, I agree it's a different mind-set than what the world has.

Charlotte Mason says, "To secure the habit of obedience, the mother must exercise great self-restraint; she must never give a command which she does not intent to see carried out to the full. And she must not lay upon her children burdens, grievous to be borne, of command heaped upon command." She says children must not learn to obey out of fear, intimidation or because it makes his/her parents happy. He/She must learn to do things because they are the right thing to do. Character is not formed in fear or flattery. And mothers should be careful as they discipline and set expectations for their children.

Oh, I could write so much more. I'm only half-way through the book, too. If you are intrigued by the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling, you need to get this book! Even if you just have little ones right now. Charlotte Mason has a lot to say about raising young children and training children before they are school age.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Vacation is over...yet, it's really only the beginning...

Every year we take a summer trip to visit my parents in Illinois. The last two years we've spent a full week at my mothers and a full week at my father's. It seemed a little long last year for the kids, but they are older and we aren't planning another trip for another year this time. We used to travel a few times a year and always for the holidays, but money is tight and traveling is more difficult with four kids. Here Angelica Pickles and Boo Boo are having some down time looking at a book together. One of the things we can't get away with not packing every trip is a ton of books!

The klan has enjoyed my parents' fenced in back yards these weeks. We have a chain-link fence at home, but it's nothing compared to the lockable 8 foot shaddow box fences around here. I don't even feel like I have to watch the older three play outside, when at home they wouldn't be outside alone for a mear second. They've enjoyed the hummingbirds, four puppies from the neighbor's yard, slugs, pool, moonwalk and slip'n'slide. Boo Boo doesn't like the sun in his eyes, but there have been plenty of days the sun was behind the clouds so he could venture out for a time, too. The weather has been perfect!

MommyK has enjoyed the free entertainment of the children, home-cooked meals made by others, and time away from the daily grind of homelife. I've wandered around a number of days in the afternoon with nothing to do. No laundry, dishes, cleaning, organizing. I haven't even wanted to work on all my projects I've brought either, most days. Although, I did do some sewing and homeschool planning. It's been nice to relax and just spend time with the klan without the distraction of the home or the phone. Although, they really like playing on their own and don't care for me to be around most of the time. So, Boo Boo and I have had some great times together. My grandmother stayed with us while at Grandmama's house and the children always enjoy spending time with Grandma Liz. I didn't get pictures this year of them riding the lawnmower with Popie or Grandmama. That's always a treat for them!

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We went to the local zoo in Springfield, IL while we were there. I grew up with this zoo, but now, compared to our local zoo here in IN, it's pretty bleak. It seemed a little better kept this year, though. The klan, of course, enjoy any type of zoo. So, it was well worth our time anyway. Sid the Science Kid enjoyed actually seeing a bald eagle since he just learned it is our nation's bird. And Boo Boo actually got to see more animals than he ever has because the cages were smaller and the animals were a little closer.

We also went to the Chatham Sweet Corn Festival while we were visiting. I grew up in Rochester, IL and Chatham was our rival. My parents both moved to Chatham after I went to college...odd...but now my mom lives in Springfield and my dad in Chatham. The kids were excited to visit the capital of Illinois now that they know what that means. At the festival they played games, ate the best sweet corn there is and Sid the Science Kid went rock climbing for the second time this year! The kids wore there "Big Brother" and "Big Sister" shirts and we all matched. It was fun. The festival was just a small walk from Grammy and PaPaw's house.

Mr. Prince took a small break from vacation and went back to Indiana to interview for teaching positions. He is promised a full-time position next year, but we aren't sure where that will be. He turned down his only job offer last week and now he has to pick his top three positions of whatever is left and they will just place him this week. Hoping for a good position and at good school that is close by home. Not having him work 5 blocks away will be an adjustment. But, of this three pics, there really isn't a bad one. So, I am pleased. They are all about 10-15 min away and good schools.

Homeschooling is planned to take off next week! I have a ton planned, but still feel like I have hours of planning still to do! It would help if I didn't change every curriculum I get my hands on, and if I quit changing my mind on everything! Now I'm debating doing something completely different with my girls than Sid the Science Kid. But I have a feeling Sid will want to do everything they are doing and they will want to do everything he is doing. *sigh* And, I realistically won't have time to do everything I want to with Sid, so I need to just STOP! Sid continues to enjoy his knowledge from Clubhouse and constantly draws pictures of the world and patriotic things. In the first picture here he was playing with our Banangrams game pieces by himself and later he put all the states in alphabetical order. The flag is made out of cuisenaire rods. I really don't have to "teach" the boy anything, do I?

It seems odd to think I only have 9 weeks before the baby arrives. Mr. Prince is thankfully home for 5 more weeks, but that time always flies so fast. I haven't even scheduled out our summer projects yet! I have lots of mind work to do this week...

We have some good friends visiting us this next weekend. They have 3 little ones, so it should be interesting during naps and bedtime. For now we will leave Boo Boo in our room, though we plan to move him into Sid the Science Kid's room as soon as we can. The girls are still frustrating us at night and we still haven't found a remedy for that. Angelica Pickles often ends up in the hallway sleeping, but still gets into mischief in the bathroom or sneaking into Sid's room. Very frustrating. But, I do expect a lot of her being just three years old. She communicates so clearly, so I expect her to act like her almost 5 year old sister, which isn't fair. We did successfully train her to stay in her bedroom until 8am each morning before she turned three, though! That has been wonderful! But, bedtime is still quite difficult. I'm bribing her right now and telling her that her friend won't come visit if she doesn't go to bed at night quietly. The last two nights have been an improvement...

We got a letter from Catholic Charities on our way out of town two weeks ago that implied we were to move forward with our foster parenting. Confused, I contacted the lady who did our homestudy and she investigated further. She found out we were denied a licenses, but the regulations that were stated to us were not correct. The actual state mandate for ages of children is that no foster family can have three children three-years-old and younger, not four children under the age of six like we were told previously. It doesn't sound much different, but in our case it is! We won't have less than four children under the age of six until 2013 or later. By June of 2010, Angelica Pickles will be four and we will only have Boo Boo and BKM under three. So, at least until we deliver baby #6, we should be able to do foster care. I'm really excited to possibly have this opportunity in the next year and hope they will consider us again next summer. We will still be within the four years of our original 30 hours of classes, so we won't have to take any additional courses either. My heart really is to adopt, so we might just do foster-to-adopt at that point since we will be limited in how long we will be able to foster. Once we have six children in this house, we will have no additional room for foster children. So, a more positive ending to our foster care journey for the time being.

Well, off to clean. Lots to do before company comes and school starts!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Homeschool Science: MFW, Noeo, or Sonlight?

Looking for homeschool curriculum at six months pregnant just isn't working out for me. I can't decided what to eat for lunch everyday, let alone a curriculum to teach my children! With a teacher background I am very picky, and I will likely over-plan anyway. I have laid out a 34 week schedule so far starting in July 2009 and ending in May 2010. I am taking off 5 weeks for the baby (some before, some after), 3 weeks for Christmas/Advent, and 2 weeks for Easter/Spring break. I will still get in my 180 days because we will be doing "school" during Christmas and Easter weeks, just not our chosen curricula. So, I think it's least on paper.

Anyway, science and history are stumping me. I've already posted about my history curriculum choices here. My history choice for a chronological study will likely not be decided for another year. But, for this year I have decided to do Adventures in My Father's World. We will be study US History, which is exactly what I wanted, but it's all planned for me! I already own quite of few of the books, so it shouldn't be as expensive for us. I will definitely throw in my own ideas, books and additional activities, but this seems like a really great core to our study. Sid the Science Kid's Summer Cluhhouse program was focused on Patriotism and the US, so he's already had a wonderful introduction. He knows 9 patriotic songs, has memorized through song his states and capitals in alphabetical order, and he's learned about some of the founding fathers. I've already started my massive book list for each week of study using MFW's scope and sequence.

But, science I keep going back and forth on between these few choices:

**My Father's World included science curriculum
**Sonlight K
**Noeo Literature-based curriculum for Biology

MFW includes science, but it seems like it doesn't cover everything I would like it to. If I used it I would add in a few ideas and books from Sonlight. Sonlight seems good, but it will be expensive to add to my purchase of Adventures in MFW. I have a lot of "equal" books to the Sonlight curriculum, and since I wouldn't pay the extra $60 to get the Instructor's Guides and I'll have to make up my own plans anyway, I feel like I can just add an extra subject in each week and get in everything I want. My children are so excited about science, so I think it will be the highlight of their day. I really don't want to skimp on this part of their school. Noeo science looks good, but again...too expensive. I will likely pull some ideas from their scope and sequence to add into whatever curriculum I choose to buy. I know there are probably great colorful science textbooks, like BJU Press, that would be thorough, but I am definitely looking for a literature-based approach.

I think part of my problem is, I would much rather create these curricula on my own rather than follow someone else's plan. But, my time is way too limited in this season of my life, so I have to invest in something I can really work with that will allow me to add, but minimally to my satisfaction. I wish I could get these curricula in my hands to see them. I could make a better assessment then.

So, if you have any thoughts or suggestions on science curricula, please let me know! I have a very advanced 6yr old doing 2nd grade work, a kindergartner and a preschooler that I would like involved in readings and activities corresponding to their abilities.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Star-Spangled Clubhouse Program

Sid the Science Kid and Mr. Prince's last week of Clubhouse is this week. Sid is pretty upset it has to end. They put on a program Tuesday for parents and sang 8 or 9 Patriotic songs, which was the theme this year. It was pretty impressive! They've also had lots of art work come home these last few weeks with flags and red, white and blue themes. Sid is looking forward to earning a Magic School Bus book on America at the end of the week. He has learned a ton from manners, character virtues, reading topics like the theme of a story, the climax, and the plot, how to get along with others in game class, how to play chess, and more. Today they went to a health center for the mentally handicapped and helped the people play Bingo and earn prizes without even earning prizes themselves. Mr. Prince said Sid did awesome there with his friend Bill. It has been a good experience for Sid and always great money for Mr. Prince!

Sid is the second from the right in the first row.

I tried to upload Sid's favorite song at the program tonight, but I couldn't. It was the song singing the states and their capitals in order. He has been singing this for weeks and has taught the girls the chorus. They did great!! Sorry you can't see...

Foster Care Application Status Update

The foster care committee met yesterday to determine whether to accept, decline or pend our foster care application. I called as soon as I got home today from my morning errands to see if they had made a decision. I just received a call from one of the ladies in the meeting yesterday. Apparently, this isn't my "official" contact with them, but she basically told me what is happening anyway.

Apparently, the "rule" here for the county foster care agency is that a family cannot have more than four children ages 6 and under in their home at one time. This includes both your own children and foster children. Come October we will have five children 6 and under, which puts us well over the limit.

My question is, we found out we were pregnant with #4 in the midst of taking our 30 hours of classes....why did someone not tell us that they would never place a child with us at that point? I asked numerous people before we started classes about limits for child placements and maximum numbers of biological children. No one could come up with any "rule" that they knew of. How frustrating. It will be two years this fall that we started this foster care journey. And it is at an abrupt end.

The lady told me we could apply in a few years when we had only three children 6 and under. If we apply within four years, we won't have to take our 30 hours again. Princess Pea won't be 7 until October of 2011, so our 4 years will have expired by then. Not to mention we will probably have more kids.

Right now my emotions are taking over and it's hard to see past the facts. But, I do know that God has taken us through this journey for a reason. I just can't fathom what that might be right now. It was 2.5 years ago when we first even pondered the idea of caring for other children besides our own, and our desire to love and help underprivileged children has just grown from there. May God continue to guide and direct our steps and help us grow in our love and knowledge of Him as we grieve the ending to this particular journey of life.