Saturday, November 30, 2013

School, a Holiday, Outside, and More ...

School, a Holiday, Outside, and More ... A Week in Review

The last week of November has flown by. We had lessons through last weekend until this past Wednesday. Visited a sick family member Thursday morning (they're doing much better now) and came home to fix a Thanksgiving Day feast for the five of us. The phone calls and texts that come with any holiday. Our friend's from over at Learning Life with 3 Sons came by on Friday to help us paint Peanut's room and visit. And here it is Saturday again. The end of a week and the end of November. Where has this year gone?

In our lessons this week we managed to get everything on the lesson plans done. Five lessons each for ABeka Math and Language Arts for the Cracker Jacks, around seven lessons in ABeka's K4 curriculum. All of our Easy Peasy lessons for all three grades. Several free worksheets I'd found online along with a Pre-K - 1st Thanksgiving lesson that I'd found for free this year. We watched Charlie Brown's voyage on the Mayflower and the Cracker Jack's discussed how accurate it might be according to their recent lessons. We had a few nature walks this week, read some more out of our nature books from the library and from our Michigan and Kentucky books we'd gotten in the same trip. We ended our lessons on Wednesday afternoon, allowing ourselves a four day weekend. ECJ is still working on his rough draft for his report on The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. He has to have it into me by tonight or his grade will go down on it. He's been given since almost the beginning of the school year to read it and write a report on it, having finished it a little over a week ago (maybe two weeks now?) that rough draft should have been given to me already.

PreK/K lessons went over very well this week. Peanut is starting to fly through her letter lessons, counting lessons, and writing lessons. I delayed the beginning of the phonics lessons until this past week and am really glad I did as she got the first one with no problem. She's right on track to begin her Kindergarten lessons sometime within the first two months of the new year. After having her do some play dough shaping of the letter "T" this week, it has been determined that this is a must do part of our lessons. We use play dough (or it's off brand) all the time to strengthen her hands, if she doesn't get an hour of it a day then it really hurts for her to write and color. So, on our longer days with her this is a good way to sneak in about 15 minutes of strengthening before moving back to more writing.

Third grade is going swimmingly for YCJ. The process of learning times tables is really beginning to stick. She's also mastered looking up words in the dictionary this week, a task that terrified her before she discovered that she can read. Some days it's still like pulling teeth to get her to write things out, but all in all her handwriting is improving and I believe we'll be able to move on to cursive work after the new year. As she tends to "draw" her letters instead of writing them cursive may just come easier to her than manuscript. Her green slips of paper are still doing the trick when it comes to reading and keeping her numbers straight. She's tucked one of them into each of her text books after the end of her daily lessons so that she's ready to tackle them the next day.

Sixth grade has caused many of us a headache or two this year. ECJ enjoys the work and the Independence, but isn't enjoying the fact that he's got more to do this year than ever before. Some days he flies through his lessons with absolutely no problem and some days he's still working when it's almost supper time. The days that take him longer are honestly due to him losing his concentration on a particular subject, or because he gets busy learning a life skill and doesn't start his "school" lessons until later in the day. I honestly think his delay in getting the rough draft of his book report to me is a delay tactic on his part, as he knows that the next book he's reading is Little Women

In our home we've been busy working on Peanut's room re-model. The process of emptying the room, mudding the walls, sanding, washing, sweeping, and putting the base coat on the walls and ceiling was an all week project. I literally put my foot in it earlier this week and caused a hole in a weak spot of the floor. Daddy had to patch that up, after adding a lot more insulation. Then began the process of finishing patching up any cracks in the walls and sanding the whole room down. By the time our friends from Learning Life stopped by on Friday we were almost ready to paint. They helped us wipe down the walls and get the first coat of paint up. I'm really liking the color that's up on the walls now, which had been decided as being the base coat. Depending on how the Barbie Pink color looks is going to depend on if we simply wait a few more days until we get to the store to purchase another can of the color we have now. We'll just have to wait and see. 

ECJ learning how to
clean plaster dust
off of tools.
This is actually a
really pale pink though
here it looks white.
Until the paint is all finished and the new flooring put in over the sub floor Peanut and YCJ are sharing a room again. This has made for long nights of girl talks and arguments that have driven all of us a little batty. Peanut's toys are in ECJ's room, her television is in the living room, her bed is taken apart in my room, her dresser is also currently residing in my room. The house will be back to normal within a week or so and will remain that way only until January when we'll begin another project.

For those of you wondering about the kitchen it remains as you last saw it. We are attempting to decide on if I will faux finish the counters to have them all match, or if we'll be using a new tile counter top that will wrap up into the back splash. Depending on what we decide will depend on when we finish the kitchen. Chances are it will be in the spring sometime and I will be sure to share all I can with you.

We spent a good amount of time outside this week. Most of which was in the yard and a couple of nature walks. The "J's" joined us on our last nature walk this week while the walls dried from being wiped down before we could paint. You'll see orange taped to the back of all of the boys jackets for safety reasons, it is hunting season and even though the time we were out there wasn't prime time for shooting, safety always comes first. ECJ discovered, after punching a hole in the ice, that below the ice there's an air pocket that's a few degrees warmer than the outside air. The eldest J boy discovered not only deer tracks but the tracks of a coyote that was tracking the deer. 

Coyote tracks
Deer tracks

Everyone spent a few minutes looking around one of the deer's old spots for bedding down. I took a couple of pictures of the J family for their Fall and "fall" pictures. I did those on both Mamma J's phone and my camera. We did head back to the house shortly after that as the sun was getting close to the horizon and dusk was approaching. During hunting season it's a good idea to be back home or on a well known human traveled trail when those hunters are going to be attempting to get themselves their deer meat.

Cooking lessons went wonderfully this week with the main event being the campers making Banana Pudding all on their own!! I only took out one measuring cup (a half cup measuring cup) to facilitate the use of multiplication for YCJ, Peanut counted the cups of milk poured into the pudding, and ECJ read the directions on how to make the pudding. They made what must be five pounds of it!

Other miscellaneous items from the last few days include a lot of crochet, reading, and learning.
Mamma J taught me how to make Granny Squares
something that had alluded me for over 20 years.
(Her's is purple made with a K hook
and mine is the green made with a F hook.)

I found a pattern online and taught myself this pattern
this weeks as well. Mamma J is also learning to do this
pattern now, after I shared my new knowledge.

ECJ finger crocheting.

YCJ looking at her project book...

YCJ beginning a Christmas gift project

Peanut working on her braiding...
A beautiful veggie turkey was brought over by the J's
and was nearly gone by the time they left a few hours later

This little cutey came by for a visit early in the week.
He walked right in as pretty as you please, ate dinner, warmed up,
then asked to go back outside.

I finished reading an ADHD book that I'll be writing a review up for this week, I'll be taking a break from my non fiction reading for the month of December. We'll also be officially starting YCJ on a new typing program sometime during this new week.

Posts from this past week include:
Tearing My Hair Out
Last Week of November 2013 Menu
Nearly Finished Fall Bucket List
You Can Homeschool the Holidays
Tired of Yelling

This week we're linking up with Great Peace Academy

You can find us on Facebook here , where on Wednesday the campers did a special video for everyone. Tonight or tomorrow there will be a long-ish list of things going on throughout the nation (and possibly the world) in December.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Tired of Yelling

It's been a long, crazy, tiresome, wearying, type of day here. We started the day off really well. The children all did their lessons with minimal issues, we had a hot lunch, got the holes in Peanut's walls all patched, the kiddos made banana pudding, etc etc. Just a "normal" day here.

And then...

Phone calls saying that relatives are ill. Change of plans, out comes a nine pound turkey (all you really need for five people), which has been "bathing" in cool water (getting changed every 30 minutes or so), and the oldest children are informed. 

One pie to bake tonight. Second load of dishes running in the dishwasher now. Last load of laundry for the day in the dryer. Children have been bathed, brushed, kissed, and sent to bed.

I thought I was doing ok ... I'd raised my voice but hadn't yelled. Not since my post earlier this week.

I just yelled. Louder than I had in awhile. The girls are going crazy rolling around and playing on the bed instead of going to sleep. I am not at my best at their bedtimes to begin with. I yelled. I yelled loudly. 

Yes, they're still awake. Are they hurting anything? No ... but they really do need their sleep or both of them are HUGE cranks the next day. And, honestly, Mamma wants them to sleep because then the house is quiet. Then I can think. Then I can sit and crochet without little noses poking into my stitches with little heads in front of mine so that I cannot see what I am doing. I can bake in relative peace, or blog, or spend time with my dear husband.

Tonight I yelled. Tomorrow I begin again and attempt not to yell at my children. I know that this can be done. I know that it is possible. I've seen people do it. I've done it before. 

With all of these orange things all around the house you'd think that I couldn't forget. I slipped. I look around my house right now and wonder how I could have just let my mouth open with that level of noise. Then I realize. I'm stressed "just" a bit today with all of the things happening out of my control. I do not like being out of control at all ever. Like NEVER. Oh, yeah I know, I talk about relaxing and for the most part I do. But, when people I know and love are ill or hurt I want to fix it, or have it fixed, yesterday! When that doesn't happen (which it rarely ever does) I get stressed out. When I get stressed out I yell. When I yell my kids think I'm scary. When they tell me that it hurts my heart.

I begin again tomorrow. Thankful for another chance.

Good night. Happy Thanksgiving. And God bless!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

You CAN Homeschool the Holidays

I'm seeing "You don't have to homeschool through the holidays posts" everywhere these days. AND they're right of course. But, what if you want to homeschool through the holidays? What if you feel like taking that much time off would really and truly cause problems with your child's progress or retention? What if you have a real reason for needing to get x amount of work or days finished by a certain time of the year?

Fear not! I am here to tell you that you absolutely can homeschool through the holidays. Not only that but that you, your children, and your family don't have to stress out while you're doing it!

Here are 4 ways to homeschool through the holidays without loosing your mind!

Stop, think, pray, list. Stop fretting and stressing out. Think about what little Suzey really needs to get done over the holidays. Perhaps she needs to read each day, practice her math skills, and work on her hand writing. The other stuff can easily either wait or be decreased for the remainder of the holiday season. Pray about how much you need to do and ask for patience during this time. List, list, list! I love lists. I write everything that we need to do school wise on one sheet of paper, everything I'd like to work into our lessons on another sheet of paper, all of the appointments and places we need to be and on what days on yet another sheet of paper, and all of the other "stuff" on a fourth piece of paper. This makes it easier to see what you need to get done, what you have done (check them off as you do them), and what things aren't necessary.

Plan. OK, maybe you're not the organized type. You'd rather wing it through each day and not worry about lists and planning. And maybe you're really good at that. But, maybe, you are a giant ball of stress by mid-December and you can't figure out why. Take an hour or two after the kids are in bed (or before they get up) and plan out the next few weeks. You won't have to stress about when you'll fit in Christmas shopping, decorating, visiting, lessons, etc etc etc. You'll have planned it all out, just remember not to freak out if plans don't go exactly as you thought they would.

Pare it down! You need the decorations, the tree, the gifts, family members and friends need visited, every lesson for every subject just has to get done right? Nope. Put up those things to decorate that you really feel you need or the kids need. The tree, the advent wreath, your 24 days before Christmas calender, the things that all of you enjoy each year and may have built traditions around. Instead of buying little Jimmy 20 gifts this year and each of his siblings the same, plus those 10 perfect gifts for each cousin and a few more for aunts, uncles, grandparents (the list is extensive isn't it?) - buy just a few gifts that will mean the most to your child. One gift for everyone else, small and well thought out, will be enough. Or if you're quick at making things make something homemade to give out.

As for those lessons, remember STPL. You did that first right? Suzey only really needs to read, write, and do arithmetic (ooo the three "r's"), you already decided that remember? You don't need to keep the Language Arts material out for that (unless you want to), grab some books at her level all about the season and holidays. Join her and let her read them to you. You don't need those fancy copy work books either, have her help you write out Christmas cards or buy her some of her own to fill out and mail. Baking a ton of things for the season? Bring her into the kitchen to help you out, baking (and cooking in general) is all about measuring and math. 

If you feel the text books are a must do, then simply figure out how to scale back a bit to be able to get the lessons you feel you must get finished done. Are 5 lessons in the math book really that important when Aunt Jo is on the phone telling you that there's an impromptu get together tomorrow night at Aunt Lynn's house and you're expected to bring that wonderful desert that only you can make.

Breath. The world is not going to end if you can't fit in every wonderful thing out there about the holiday. So you didn't watch documentaries about Christmas around the world, you didn't get those 25 math lessons finished, and Suzey's writing looks the same as it did before the holidays began. It's OK. Really. Think of all those things that you are getting finished. Think of the wonderful lessons you're teaching your children when you rush to help Grandma get her house cleaned up for the big family get together, bake cookies for the elderly neighbor, or stop that few seconds to drop your spare change in the Salvation Army bucket. 

Lessons are wonderful and I love having formal school time and teaching from our text books. I also love reading living books to my children, doing fun worksheets I find online, cooking with my kids, and letting them get creative. There's a million things to stress about this season, but you don't have to. 

Maybe writing Christmas cards for a few minutes a day for the next couple of weeks is enough writing practice. Perhaps baking cookies and other yummy things in the kitchen to share and to eat is enough Math practice (or doing wonderful color by number after you solve the math problem worksheets). Maybe reading a different Christmas story each night is plenty to do for reading practice. Or, maybe you want to do just one subject a day each day of the week. Perhaps an hour working on math before doing other things is what you find little Suzey really needs.

Those subjects that you're not really on a *ahem* "dead line" for don't have to be forced right now. Life is hectic this time of year. Give yourself and your children a break.

** I never give advice that I myself don't use. This is why our nature study is being extended, our states history units are being extended, and the core subjects will be done as much as we can. I have several days within the next 30 that are scheduled off to do the other things. **

Make sure to go to our Facebook page tomorrow afternoon for a special message from the campers! Also, check back there on Saturday to see what other things happen in December besides Christmas (the most important of them for me but that's me :-) ).

We're linked up today with Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

*There will be no post on Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Nearly Finished! - Fall Bucket List

Checking off another item earlier today I noticed just how much we had gotten finished on the Fall Bucket List, and how "little" there is left to do. 

Out of twenty things on our list we now only have five to "finish" and a couple of those are already in the works. 

Things that we've finished include: Pick apples at an apple orchard, visit a cider mill, make leaf rubbings, go to a pumpkin patch, carve jack-o-lanterns, jump in leaf piles, make pumpkin seeds, learn to swim, do a "safe" Halloween event, visit the library, volunteer in the community, learn how to make caramel filled apples, make bird feeders, make water color "leaves", and teach the kids how to make banana pudding! Whew that's a whole lot of stuff we've done in the last two months or so!

What's left:
Visit Detroit Zoo
Visit the fire department
Plant a "winter garden"
Paint at least one kid's room
Learn the rosary

We've got an appointment for a tour of the fire department in the middle of next month, just in time to check it off of the list. We're nearly complete in learning the rosary, only Peanut isn't expected to know these prayers at this point. Planting our "winter garden" will be done sometime in the next few weeks and will be a long term science project for all of us for the rest of the cold months (yes, of course we'll be keeping you posted). Visiting the Detroit Zoo may or may not get accomplished this time, however, if we don't manage it our friends over at Learning Life ... gave me a cute idea that I may just run with.

We're hoping to get Peanut's room painted this Friday. Learning Life with 3 Sons will be coming by to help out and we're hoping to get an item or two checked off of their list as well. It should be a wonderful visit even if we don't get the room completely painted.

So, there's two items that I hadn't previously shown pictures of or talked about how we managed to check them off of our lists. One of these I will not be sharing pictures of. The reason for that is I don't want to post pictures of those we've helped. I hadn't thought before about how much "volunteer" work we actually do. We're constantly helping those around us without thought of what we're doing or if it is intentionally volunteer work. I did mention in September that ECJ volunteered to cut the elder lady's lawn and do her snow this year. I've spent the time between then and now watching what my children do each day, watching how much my husband pours his heart into the community, and noticing all those little things I do for others each day without being asked to. I spoke to a dear friend ( @ Learning ... ) about if this were truly considered volunteer work, or if I should keep looking for something we could do.  

We volunteer each and every day in our community to those around us, we help people simply because that's the type of people we are. We did inquire about volunteering at our local pet store/groomers as a clean up crew but due to the children's ages they're not able to allow it for insurance reasons. We're constantly picking up garbage as one or another child (or myself) notices it on our walks ... "leave it better than you found it" is something we've adopted. I tell you this not because I want to make us seem like saints or that we're perfect ... I tell you this because it's the truth. We do these things nearly every day, of every week, in every month, all year long. My husband and I were raised to look after those in our neighborhoods, our friends, and our families. We're attempting to pass those values down to our children and so far it looks like we're doing a pretty good job of it.

OK, less serious, more fun!!! Here's a step-by-step of how to make water color leaf "sun catchers":

Materials -

  • coffee filters (one for each child)
  • water color paints
  • paint brushes
  • hole punch
  • construction paper (2 for each child)
  • scissors
  • plastic bags (1 for each child)
  • news paper 
  • cooking spray
  • glue
  • yarn
  • cups of water to rinse brushes
Step one - Gather all of your materials. Lay a layer or two of news paper down to protect your surface. Fold your plastic shopping bag in half, make sure the color (if any) is on the inside, and tape top and bottom to the newspaper. If you have a feisty painter you may want to tape the sides down as well.

Step two - Spray the plastic bag liberally but not excessively with cooking spray. There's two reasons to do this. 1) It stops paint from seeping through the coffee filter and drying the whole thing to the plastic bag (or paper if you thought you didn't need the bag). 2) It makes the coffee filter a little more transparent, as you'll see in later pictures. (A change that can be discussed with the children to add a bit of science in there if you so wish.) Place your coffee filter down on the plastic and flatten out so that the entire surface can be painted on. * I put the paints and water on the table after I'd sprayed the plastic bags. *

Step three - Allow your children to paint whatever they want on the coffee filter. Anything goes here. Abstract, geometric, scenery, animals, etc. Let their imaginations go wild. My only requirement was that I wanted the design to take up most (or all) of the coffee filter.

Step four - These really need to dry for several hours or over night. I moved ours, newspaper and all, to the girls school desks for over night so that they'd dry and we'd still have a dining room table to eat at. We did allow ours to dry over night. this is the only way I know to avoid 100+ questions an hour by a curious and excited 5 year old about if the paint is dry yet or not. We also did these first four steps right after dinner Saturday night.

Step five - When the paint is dry peal the coffee filter off of the plastic. The cooking spray will still be slightly holding it on at this time. Place on one sheet of construction paper and trace around it. Decide on the shape you want the whole project to be and change your circle slightly to accommodate it. We chose leaf/tear drop shapes (they'd found a big round leaf on a walk last week and wanted to copy it's shape). Then, making sure you have two pieces of construction paper placed neatly together with edges lined up, cut out your shape from both pieces of construction paper.

Step six - Cut out the center of these shapes. You can get more technical and measure all the edges to make sure you have the exact same width for your "frame". But we just eyeballed it.

Step seven - Decide on which parts on the inside of the frame and which on the outside. We didn't want to erase pencil marks so all of those went on the inside and we matched our other piece so that it would line up right. Apply glue to one piece of the construction paper, all over. We found that good old fashioned white school glue worked best for this. Then put your coffee filter on top of the paper.

Step eight - Glue the "matching" side of your other piece of construction paper. Line up the two shapes and sandwich your coffee filter painting inside. * I also put small pieces of tape at four or five points on each one at the edges to help hold them together. *

Step nine - Set these aside to dry again. We chose to do steps five through nine again after dinner. This was after Sunday night's dinner so that they could dry again all night long and Mommy could avoid several hundred more questions on if they were dry yet.

Step ten - This is the final step and it takes the least amount of time. Just punch a hole in the top of your paper and string a piece of yarn through the hole. Make sure the yarn is long enough so that your painting will hang in the light of a window. Tie a knot in the ends of the yarn and hang up in the sun light. Watch as the kids notice that their painting is now a "sun catcher". The now dried cooking spray has made whatever parts of the coffee filter that still show translucent and the painting is nearly see through in the light.
Left: Peanut's garden under a blue winter sun (red)
Center: A very good rendition of one of our stuffed penguins by YCJ (green)
Right: A panda in a bamboo forest with a Japanese house by ECJ (yellow)

You can find us on Facebook here. Come on by and check us out. There's a couple things coming up in the next seven days that will only be shared there!

Last Week of Nov. '13 Menu

Another week has rolled on past us and we're only days away from Thanksgiving now! I could be in a panic and attempting to get all the ingredients together for Thanksgiving, but I'm not. We're going to go to Grandma's house for Thanksgiving!

I bought everything for the pickle plate (our yearly contribution) at the beginning of the month. All of the supplies for the banana pudding the children are making to take along are here as well, I'll buy the banana's tomorrow. 

So, what's on our menu this week?

Sunday - French Onion Soup (still half a crock pot left) - Toad in a hole for breakfast with turkey bacon
Monday - Pork Roast, mashed potatoes, and sour kraut 
Tuesday - Chicken Quesadillas homemade
Wednesday - "Something" beef night (possibly Swedish Meatballs) - make banana pudding for Thursday
Thursday - Thanksgiving!!!
Friday - Oven "fried" fish fillets, mashed potatoes, corn
Saturday - Thanksgiving leftovers (we always get sent home with some :-) )

I made Swedish Meatballs for the first time this past week and boy oh boy did it go over well!

I couldn't find a recipe online that I liked so my wonderful husband called his mom for me. Grandma to the rescue!

Here's Grandma's recipe for Swedish Meatballs (not traditional but super easy and delicious!):

  • 2-3 small cans condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 1-2 pounds ground meat (we used 1 pound each ground beef and ground pork ... turkey could be used)
  • milk
  • fine breadcrumbs or fine corn meal
  • flour
  • water
  • Worcestershire sauce (or equivalent)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • * fresh mushrooms
  • egg (or another binding agent for those with egg allergies)
  • 1 packet onion soup mix
In one bowl mix up your meat, breadcrumbs, onion soup mix, some salt and pepper, and egg to form your mix for your meatballs. Mix well (texture like a meatloaf) and form balls. I fried mine a bit to sear them and then finished them in a 350 degree oven. (We also fried off a couple of the ones that didn't fit on my pan and my husband preferred those.) While meat balls are cooking in the oven (they took about half an hour to 45 minutes) empty your condensed milk into a saucepan. Put in about half the liquid you normally would to make soup (instructions for soup on label), I used milk for the creaminess but you could certainly just use water. Turn on over medium/ medium low heat. Add in a few tsp of Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper to taste. * I added fresh cut up mushrooms to the sauce mix. In another pot boil the water for your egg noodles.  Once your sauce mix is beginning to get warm, or your meatballs have about 10 minutes to finish, add in flour mixture** and turn the heat up to thicken the sauce a bit. Cook your egg noodles.

Once everything is done place noodles, then meat balls, then sauce on your plate and enjoy! - This fed all five of us with plenty of meatballs left over.

** Flour mixture is what I call the trick I learned when I was younger to not get lumps in any gravy or sauce I was making. You place the normal amount of flour (or cornstarch) you'd use for thickening in an empty jar with a lid. Add enough water so that this becomes a liquid (not paste) when you shake the whole thing up. You can season this to match the sauce that your adding it to. Pour in slowly with one hand while stirring with the other. No more lumps!

Toad in the hole:

My kids wanted me to share this as it's one of our family favorites and they don't think any kid should be ignorant of it. Super simple and easy to make with only 3 ingredients.

You'll need bread slices, eggs (one for each bread slice), and a tiny amount of butter.

Using a cookie cutter (or the lid off of something in the kitchen) cut a circle into each slice of bread. Save the circle! Melt a tiny amount of butter into a non stick pan on medium heat (lower if you prefer). Place the holey bread into your pan and the circles that came out of it. Put one egg inside of each circle. Cook about half way and then flip all the bread. Cook for a minute or two more and serve. Two of the kids like the eggs over easy so they can dunk the "toast circles" and one of them likes her egg scrambled together in the middle. This is filling, packed with protein, and takes less than ten minutes to make (even with five of us!).

You can find us on Facebook here.

Linked up today with Organizing Junkie