Thursday, August 19, 2010

Our "Workboxes"

I have been looking at some homeschool blogs where they talk about "Work boxes." I thought this would really benefit our family and help us to be organized and help me to be accountable to not skip the activities that take more preparation. So, I looked into them, but wasn't sure I wanted to buy any of the supplies I saw others using - I felt it was too much money if we found out the system wouldn't work for us. Then I saw this type of set-up on The Homeschool Classroom blog.

I loved it! It is the perfect way for us to see how this system works for us, and it was less expensive to try. (A few hours after this picture was taken, the 3M hooks I was using gave, I ended up moving them to our office and hung them with picture hangers instead.)

Last week, in preparation for our first week of school, we decorated some folders for each subject. I still need to label them...don't know what is taking me so long! I keep having to look to see which one is Princess' and which is Little Man's.

I will post more about our first week of school at the end of the week. Hopefully, I will actually have some pictures of some of our activities. As of right now, I have been finding my bearings and have not had the camera on hand. Maybe I should get that ready tonight! =0)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The (hopefully) before pictures...

My editor (DH) suggested that I should tone down the language of this post to protect the innocent. So, here we go. I thought we had the ugliest bathroom, until I saw on HGTV that there were people worse off than us. In saying that, though, I would like to submit these pictures of the paint in OUR tiny master bathroom:

And just in case you can't see the sponging detail, here is another shot.

Now, I would like to submit that these colors (Teal, dusty rose, and mauve) were probably "in" at the time the bathroom was done and HGTV probably did not exist. The person probably did not know to mix glaze with the paint, or how to use the sponge to get the effect they wanted. (I can't even tell you what I think of every time I look at the shape on the left...they are everywhere, though.) They probably did this in the bathroom because NO ONE would ever see it, and it was a good place to test it. I would even like to think that it did not turn out as they had expected, and that maybe they, too, thought it was...well, maybe not ugly. They did keep it...

It used to have a border around the middle, too. We took the border off the first week we were in the house, and I was sure this would be one of the first rooms to get a face-lift. That was six years ago. What happened? About a week after we took off the border, the shower was pouring water into the basement. A simple paint job and new fixtures were not going to cut it. So, we took down a wall, called a plumber and were told the pipes were fine, but we could get a whole new bathroom for $$$$$. We did not trust him. But, it was just discouraging enough that we figured we would have to wait until we had money to get the shower fixed before any other work in the room. As I am not one to start a project I can't finish, this is what I have been looking at for the last six years.

I know...we made it worse! The only times I have been sick enough of waiting, and decided I wanted to at LEAST change the paint, I was pregnant. I was not sticking myself in that tiny space with paint fumes. So, it never got done. There is a glimmer of hope, however. See this?

That picture there is the prototype for the low wall we are going to build for our new shower, that will have a glass enclosure. Some paint and new fixtures (did you catch that mirror?) are the only other things standing in the way of me and a new bathroom.

We firmly believe in waiting until we have the money for a project before we start, and there are so many projects we have had to do on this house. The first year here, we found out the coal stove we now owned was a fire hazard, and we needed a new stove. We knew this would make a huge difference in our heating costs, so it got priority. In the subsequent years, we fixed the roof so we wouldn't have shingles flying all over the yard any more, replaced original (1972!) windows, switched to vinyl siding (which DH installed himself!), gave the kitchen a new look (though I dream of a new kitchen...) and FINALLY got rid of the orange carpet in the basement. So, I don't know whether it will be months or years before the bathroom is really finished. I am hoping for the former, but I am just happy to have that little glimmer of hope that SOMETHING is going to happen after all these years!

Then...I think it will be on to the office...(EVERYTHING from the flooring to the molding, to the window, to the walls are the same color blue...not sure WHAT they were thinking. The only thing different is the inside of the closet which is sponged (again!) with primary colors. Although, there are two other bathrooms making their cases for attention, as well. Decisions, decisions! =0)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Treehouse News

No, we are not building a treehouse. As much as we all would love that, it is not in the plan, yet. So, let me explain a little. I wanted to have a design for my blog that would be a little more permanent. In thinking about that, I have gone back to the verse that helped me name this blog, "A longing fulfilled is a tree of life." I am hoping to design something using a tree type theme (more on that another time...) I was also looking for some way to name our updates about the kids so that it was always the same. I figured I would go with the tree theme. I hope that I get around to designing the new look so it will make more sense, but I am going to start naming our posts about the kids stories and quotes as "Treehouse news." Hopefully, this will help the grandparents find their favorite stories. =0) I am also hoping it will help me write them more often.

For now, I will start with our most recent "news". It has been a while, so I will just give some highlights.


Princess Enjoying TWO books

I have been watching this little lady, of late, and I am amazed at her firstborn tendencies. As a second born child, this is killing me! I have been getting some insight from some of the other firstborn's I know (thanks, Dad!) so, I am learning to see her differently.

Here are some other things she has been up to:
- If I find Princess quiet somewhere, she is either reading or coloring. Her creativity with color is so much fun to watch.
- She loves to wear MY sweater when she is cold. The other day, my DH said, "Don't worry, someday she wont fit into your clothes anymore." Funny...she is only five and I already have to share my clothes with her!
- Everyone she meets is her best friend - From the child who would not LOOK at anyone as a baby, this is a real turn around. She talks to everyone. The other day, we spent an extra five minutes at the checkout so she could finish her story to the cashier.
- Just so you know, her vocabulary is also expanding...I am not even sure where she got this one:
P - "We used to have fires all the time." (In the fireplace.)
Me - "We will again."
P - "When? When winter sets in?" (For the rest of the day, both Princess and Little Man were looking forward to that time when "winter sets in")
- We have been getting books from the "Teach me how to be Good" series. We read the book on being rude, and I often remind the kids that they should not be rude to each other. Here is the response I got one day from Princess: ""That wasn't rude. I read the whole book, and that wasn't in there." that comprehension!
- "Mom, you're so sweet, I'm never gonna leave...not even when I am grown up and supposed to."

Little Man

Cooling off by the air conditioner

I have been at a loss with Little Man for the summer. He needs structure and he needs to run around...he hasn't had much of either. Things have been changing around so much that our structured days took a backseat to opportunities for fun. When we have been home, we haven't had much time out because of the heat - and Little Man has a difficult time with the heat. Even when we have gotten out, he is the first one ready to go in.

Here are a few examples of what he likes right now, and a few quotes:
- Solving mysteries - We have been reading some mystery style books lately, and he has really gotten into it. One night, after Pookie's birthday party, I left a cupcake wrapper and candy bar wrapper downstairs. The next morning, he came up to tell DH, "I have a CLUE! Two Clues! A cupcake wrapper...and a candy bar wrapper!" After doing some sleuth work, he discovered who left them. =0)
- Rain Boots - I got rain boots for the kids so they could go out in the rain, and they have REALLY enjoyed jumping in the puddles with them. Little Man, however, does not like getting rained on. So, he is generally in a jacket with his hood on!
- Love for Pookie - He has been writing notes and drawings to tell Pookie that he loves her. It is so sweet!
- This summer dressing up has exploded as an activity in our house. Little Man likes dressing up, but has informed Princess he does NOT want to be the prince! I guess that story line has gone on long enough for him!
- Starting to love books - I love that I am finding him more and more often with an open book quietly looking through it. It is going to be interesting teaching him to read because he guesses correctly so often!
- This is a conversation we had in the car on a day when the kids had been in front of the TV ALL DAY (Confession time for me, I guess...)
LM - Can we watch a show?
DH - No you already had enough shows today from the sound of it.
LM - No, we didn't have that many.
Me - Yes you did. You watched...(I started listing off the titles)
LM - That's only 4.
Me - Oh, then you watched...(I listed two more)
LM - That's only 6. That's not a big number. I want like 10.
DH - Do you know how many shows I watched today?
LM - No.
DH - None.
LM - Oh, well when we get home we can watch a show and then...

I didn't hear the rest of what he said...I was laughing too hard.


Pookie after her first bath with "Baby"

This little firecracker has had a wonderful time the last few weeks. She got to celebrate her birthday 4 times the week of her birthday, and now "Happy Birthday" is her favorite song. (It has nothing to do with the singing Pooh Bear balloon I bought her for her party...guaranteed to play at least 50 times! I thought DH was going to lose it!) The picture, above, is her with her new bath time baby doll - she loves it!

- Potty training - I can't believe how well Pookie is potty training. She has had two or three accidents all week. We did go out a few times with pull-ups on, and she did need them. At home, though, she has done wonderful. Today, in the car, she told us she needed to go. We were a few minutes from home, but when we arrived she was still dry and went on the potty. You go girl!!! We had an awful time finding panties that would fit her, though. Size 18m just doesn't seem to exist. Luckily, we found some really narrow 2t/3t. They seem to fit her okay. We will be trying them out this week.
- Singing, dancing, dressing up - I can tell how much she adores her brother and sister because she wants to be where they are and doing what they are doing. She is ALWAYS singing, and if she has a dress on there is dancing to go along with it.
- Quotes -
- I dropped a towel going from the washer to the dryer. I said, "Whoops." She responded by picking it up and saying, "Tain choo, wackum". (thank you, you're welcome) and then throwing it in the dryer for me.
- I asked, "Do you want me to carry you?" "Umm-hmm, carry me." I find it interesting that she used the correct "me" instead of "you."
- "Watch me mom!"
- Dictionary of terms: Cuckoos=Blues Clues

I hope you enjoyed our long update here. Hopefully, I can keep up with their news a little better so I don't feel like I need to tell you everything that they have been doing. I am so proud of them, and how they are growing. I hope you have enjoyed some of their stories, too.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Travel Checklist

Okay, so we have taken about a trip a month since the beginning of the year, and I have gotten really good at packing for all of us. One of the best tools I have found for this is my Traveling Checklist. I found the original list in the book "Secrets to Getting More Done in Less Time" by Donna Otto.

I liked the idea of the list, but it was not practical for me. There is no color coordination of my "uniform"...namely jeans and a t-shirt. I didn't need to remember pantyhose or tennis clothes. However, I did need to remember to bring the kid's special sleeping items EVERY TIME. There is no forgetting bedtime buddies. Well, there sometimes is forgetting of them, but there will not be as much sleep. So, I tweaked the list to be more in line with what we need, and thought there might be other moms that could benefit from my version of a packing list. Every time we have traveled, we have added to the list. This last time, we did not forget anything we needed.

Here is a look at the list:

For clothes, I just think about how long the trip is and list the number of each item I need in the column for each type of clothing. Then as I fill each person's quota, I check them off. My favorite thing about this list is that I added a "Which Bag" column. For all the items other than clothing, I list where I packed everything so that we can find it easily. It also makes it easier when re-packing (for the trip home) to remember where everything fits!

The other thing I think is great about this list is that if it is a long time between trips, and I am no longer so used to packing, I will still know what we need to bring with us. I hope you get your own list together to help you in this process, too. If you are interested in the excel version of the list, email me and I can send it to you. =0)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Above Average

I have read that most parents think that their child is above average compared to other children their age. By definition, "above average" cannot be the status of the majority of children. Most of us have average children; average, individual, special, precious children who have been given the skills they need to achieve their purpose in life. I think we see them as so advanced because we get to watch them as they discover about life and explode into new areas of knowledge that we know are new to them. It is amazing to watch. Because of this, I think it is good to gain some perspective on what an average child of our child's age is learning or knows.

Proverbs 1:8 "Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching."
Whether children are in private school, public school, home schooled or even UN-schooled, I firmly believe that their education is ultimately the responsibility of their parents. We are the only ones with the unique knowledge and perspective of our children to know their strengths and weaknesses. We are the ones God entrusted with their little hearts for this season, and we have a responsibility to them. (Proverbs 22:6, Proverbs 31:26, Eph 6:4, 2 Tim 4:2) How well do we know what they should be learning, though? What kinds of things are they learning in school, and what kinds of things will they learn only at home?

I think, as a society, we have assumed that if we send our children to school they will learn all they need to know. How many parents in the past have thought that their child was learning because they were progressing through the school system, only to learn that their child can't even read? Nowadays, I think that is less common. However, all of the children I know that do the best in school have their parents backing them up, checking up on them and making sure that they learn the work habits they need to succeed in school and in life. We, as parents, should know what they are learning in school and supplement whatever else we know they need to be learning.

Prior to our decision to homeschool, I was concerned about character development - how to know what to expect at different ages. I knew they would not be taught about character in school, but I also felt I had no clue what was even age appropriate for their school room learning. How was I supposed to know what "reading at a second-grade level" meant? I have found two resources that I hope will really help as I move forward in teaching my children in character development and academics at home.

"What Every Child Should Know Along the Way" - Gail Martin

I first Heard about this book on the Homemaker's By Choice podcast that I listen to. In one episode of their podcast, they had talked about developing your children's character and other skills. They mentioned that this book by Gail Martin included lists of what you should expect from children of different ages in different character and skill areas. I was excited to hear about a book that would address some of these concerns of mine. When I went to look for it on, it was listed for anywhere from $25 used to $375 new (OUCH!). I decided to wait until I could research it more and see if I could find it cheaper. I just found it and bought it on sale for $4.70 from the ministry that apparently originally worked on it (the foreword in the book is by one of the people from this ministry.) The name of the ministry is Growing Families International, and I found the book in their store, here. It looks like they might have more parenting and family resources, so I plan to check them out more later.

"Evaluating for Excellence" by Teresa Moon:
I have read a few posts about this, but I like this one best from The Homeschool Classroom, it was written by Brenda who blogs at Ties that Bind Us. For those of you not interested in reading the post, let me just give you an excerpt:

When I found this book, Evaluating for Excellence: A Handbook for Evaluating Student Progress, in 2004, I didn’t know what a gold mine I had hit. This book is better then year-end evaluations and it helps me plan our following year more effectively. It is full of tools to evaluate your children and yourself and it tells you how to use them. My favorite one is the Character Qualities Review. It has qualities listed such as: attentiveness, brotherly love, contentment, courtesy, cooperation etc… You evaluate your child by checking off weak, improving, satisfactory and excellent. When you place 2 or 3 years worth of this evaluation side by side you can really get a picture of the type of character your child is heading towards. It tells you where to put your focus.
After that, I was ready to read the book. The introduction of the book had me laughing so hard because of the similarities of my experiences to hers. (She contrasted a day when her son got stitches to a day out for a baby just got stitches and I LOVE my mochas!) Her point was this: how we feel about what we are doing changes with our circumstances, but we cannot judge our progress (or our children's) by how we feel. We need to have a better measuring stick than that. Here are some areas that this book can help you evaluate in your child's life:
  • Character Development
  • Student Inventory (overall assessment of every subject)
  • Diagnostic Writing Checklist (to track writing progress)
  • Family’s Approved Book list
  • Reading Genres
  • Physical education
  • Student Assignment Sheet
One of my favorite forms, so far, is an evaluation for me as a Homeschooling Mom - How am I doing? Do I need outside help on anything? I need to be aware of these things so I can make wise decisions for my kids.

Your child may be in a GREAT school. They may be really smart and getting great grades. I think it is wise to consider if there are things you might want to focus on with them, too, though. Are they learning more or do they just already know what is expected in their grade level? Are they being challenged or are they bored? Do they have a lot of academic opportunities, but not social ones? Are a lot of physical activities offered, but not many spiritual ones? Are they given lots of experiments, but not enough artistic expression? There are so many areas of education, and we need to be aware of how our children are growing in these areas. One of the reasons I think homeschooling is so great is that I can tailor their education to their strengths and weaknesses. I can give them opportunities to excel at their strengths and give special attention to their weaknesses. Even without homeschooling, though, I believe you can supplement their education so they are given those extra opportunities or the extra help they need.

I will be looking more at these two books, and maybe I will do more of a review after I have finished them. I like what I see so far!