Monday, August 31, 2009

Two Weeks of Arts & Crafts

On Monday afternoons, we'll have a planned arts or crafts activity. My kids have paper, markers, crayons, colored pencils and other such things available almost all the time. (I have to hide most of it from Second Daughter, especially the markers; she's learned to pull off the tops and then bites the marker off. Lovely.) Our Monday art time will be a special time when I'll plan activities we might not attempt otherwise. As you'll see, I will have to work on my mother-juggling skills a bit.

I thought an appropriate first day of school art activity would be creating handprints of the kids. I found a recipe in The Little Hands Art Book for salt dough that I could bake and let the kids roll it out and press their hand in.

Now, I have these three lovely hand prints...and no idea what I'll do with them. I have to keep them, of course, but I might wrap them up and store them in a drawer. Or perhaps I'll try them out on the mantel, at least for a while.

They puffed up a bit, especially Second Daughter's. Also, they aren't as dry or hard as I'd like. There are other salt dough recipes that we'll be trying out. In fact, I was going to let First Son make a sea star from Sea Life Art & Activities today, but realized I used all the flour last week and forgot to put it on the grocery list.

I decided instead to let them paint. They're always begging to paint and I dread it.

They were thrilled when I suggested it today.

I let Second Daughter "paint" with yogurt, which she loved. She went through three spoons, ate some with her hands and rubbed it all over her tray. It was everywhere and she was pretty happy...for a while.

Eventually, Second Daughter tired of the activity and needed a diaper change, so I told the older two to stay put and I'd be right back. (Famous last words.) The diaper change was messy and I was focused on that when First Daughter appears at the bedroom door, covered in paint and holding her dripping paper. Ack! I send her back to the kitchen and head there to clean up that mess. I find Second Daughter digging through the DVD cabinet when I return to rinse off the diaper. When I clean those messes and return to the kitchen, First Daughter informs me she dumped her water on her painting because she didn't want gray water anymore. It was awesome.

At least they had fun, right?

Kansas Dad would like to build a picnic table for us. When he does, I'm moving all painting outside. (Actually, we're hoping to build a house some day and I'm already dreaming of an art corner with easy-clean floors and walls and a sink right there...)

My Babies Are Growing Up

Kansas Dad is planning to build a three-tiered set of bunk beds in the next year or so, but we were blessed yesterday with a fabulous gift of bunk beds for the kids. Kansas Dad worked hard for a couple of hours to get them set up and the kids were thrilled to sleep on them for the first time last night.

First Daughter is already adept at climbing up and down the ladder. We decided we have to put it up on First Son's bed during the day because Second Daughter was practicing her climbing and we just don't need that additional worry.

There's just enough room to squeeze in the crib at the end of First Daughter's bed, so Second Daughter can move in with soon as she's night-weaned...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Our Math Lessons

Our first week of lessons in Math all came from Math Play!, a book I happened to have on hand. In general, I'd say these were a bit too easy for First Son. He'd already mastered all the skills. First Daughter, however, has enjoyed them quite a lot. One of the nice things about the book is that many of the activities use only household items, so there's no need to run to the store for teddy bear counters or something.

On the first day, we investigated measuring liquids. First Son knew we could pour the water into the bigger cup, but not the smaller one, but he didn't mind spilling.

In fact, it quickly changed to a fun game of filling the measuring cup at the sink and filling the tub as much as I would allow. They played in the water off and on all day, which was fine with me (for the most part).

Second Daughter had her own measuring cups for entertainment.

She decided to study science instead, though: gravity. It never fails to fascinate the toddler crowd.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Still Have Zucchini?

I just happened to search for our absolute favorite zucchini recipe online and you can find it here! (It's from The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life.)

You will not regret it. Kansas Dad and I can eat a whole tray of them ourselves in about five minutes. I don't know what we're going to do if the kids ever decide to try them.

By the way, Kansas Dad doesn't dip. He puts the Parmesan and bread crumbs in a plastic bag or container and just shakes the zucchini - much faster. We've also found the cheap grated Parmesan works better than the shredded. Mmmm...wish we had some zucchini right now...

Ordering My Life to God

A Mother's Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul

In case you can't tell from the quotes I've posted recently, I found much to value in this book. Mrs. Pierlot is a Catholic homeschooling mother who developed a Rule of Life, similar to that found in monasteries or convents, to guide her daily life as a wife and mother. In the book, she provides practical questions and suggestions for developing your own rule.

It all began when she felt like everything was falling apart. Eventually, Mrs. Pierlot remembered the words of a wise priest who told her about

the Five "P's" of Married Life -- the five priorities of the married vocation:

First P = Prayer
Second P = Person
Third P = Partner
Fourth P = Parent
Fifth P = Provider

The order is important; there is a hierarchy. Prayer (spiritual life) includes setting aside time for prayer, adoration, and the sacraments, as well as study for spiritual growth. Person includes all the daily stuff we mothers must do like showers, but also exercise and time to address mental health. Partner is the time to focus on and develop the relationship with your husband. Parent for the kids. Last (and least), Provider would include a job (to provide money), but also financial stewardship and keeping house.

There are lots of books out there on how to organize your home and schedule your daily or weekly chores. What sets this one apart is how Mrs. Pierlot takes the same approach to scheduling the chores (properly in the place as the least important) to scheduling time for our relationships with God and our families. After giving her own story within each priority, she provides a list of questions that can help walk you through the process of determining what you and your family need to accomplish, what your goals may be and how your time can be focused.

As this quote shows, this is not just a book about how to keep your house clean and dinner on the table. It's about ordering your life about what is most important. As everything falls into place, the vocation of Marriage and Motherhood are avenues to a closer relationship to God.

I did not have time to go through all the questions myself, as I have to return this book to inter-library loan, but I hope to institute some of her ideas in our home. For example, she mentions a realization that she and the kids do not need to be doing the same thing at the same time, so I've been trying to take clothes out to hang on the line while taking the kids out for their outside time. (Mrs. Pierlot sends her kids out to play and has quiet time indoors for prayer time, but my children aren't old enough to be outside without me.)

If you're interested in learning more, the author maintains a blog and website here.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough to all Catholic mothers (homeschooling or not). Christian mothers (homeschooling or not) may also find much of value. (The Prayer chapter in particular focuses quite a lot on the sacraments of the Catholic church, but I believe the heart of the meaning can be translated, with the help of a spiritual mentor if necessary.)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Our Chinese Lanterns

This little plant is growing wild in one of our front beds. I took a few pictures of it the other day because it looked so interesting to me.

It seems to be a Chinese lantern (Physalis alkekengii or Physalis longifolia, I'm not sure which), and will eventually look like this. How cool is that?

You can find more information here, here, here, here and here.

Quote: A Mother's Rule of Life

[A] Rule of Life is...about personal balance and loving relationships and intimacy with God. After a very intense first year or so, I began to notice a real improvement in my ability to meet the demands of my vocation. Things weren't so hard anymore. After two years, I realized that somewhere along the line, without my noticing it, I'd experienced a real calming of my person; I no longer had big ups or downs. I'd get up in the morning, and I'd be ready to start my day without any of the earlier reluctance or difficulty. My home was usually in satisfactory order, and the kids' schooling was coming along very well. That has continued until the present time, and it's coming on four years...

But most important, I've time for God and for my family. I can truly love them and attend to them. I know now that the most important things are the relationships God has placed in my life. I could say a whole new world has opened up for me, one that I had never discovered before, and I like it. Not that everything's perfect, but it's better. It's good.

And at the end:

God may well be asking you, in this era of marital and family decline, to make this conscious, wholehearted commitment to him and to your family as part of a renewal of the world. May God be with you.

Holly Pierlot in A Mother's Rule of Life

Thursday, August 27, 2009

As Promised

I've been slow on the blogging this week. Hopefully I'll be back up to speed once I get the hang of this homeschooling gig. As promised, here's a picture of the preschooler and the kindergartener on their first day of school last Monday.

One of the benefits of homeschooling is not having to worry about what they're wearing so much, but they did pretty well picking out matching clothes for the day.

Monday, August 24, 2009

First Day Declared a Success

The highlights:

- We started with First Day of School pictures, just five minutes later than I had hoped.
- We hit all of our planned subjects. First Son asked for more of almost everything. (He doesn't care to be told he's holding his pencil incorrectly during handwriting.)
- We went outside twice.
- I did three loads of laundry, and hung them all out to dry.
- Both girls took a nap.
- I exercised. (We'll pretend I've been doing that all along.) I also took a shower.
- I sort of planned dinner. (I took some pasta sauce out of the freezer and told Kansas Dad we could warm it up.)
- We successfully made salt clay hand prints for our arts & crafts activity.
- I've already pulled out all the books and materials for tomorrow's lessons.

I have pictures that I hope to share in the next few days. Tonight, I'm taking a computer night off (after publishing this post) and tomorrow night we're hitting a library book sale -- without the kids! (Thanks, Grammy!!)

Quote: A Mother's Rule of Life

Over time, the answer came: parenting is a call to form persons. We're called to bring God to our children's spirits, truth to their minds, health to their bodies, skill to their hands, beauty and creativity to their hearts, and in all this, virtue to their wills and sanctity to their souls. The education we are to provide has to go beyond the three Rs and beyond professional or vocational training.


But loving our children means treating them with the same amount of courtesy, respect, and politeness with which we want to be treated, or as we would treat any adult, or the Pope or Mother Teresa, or the Lord himself.

Where I have failed in this, I have taken it to Confession.

Holly Pierlot in A Mother's Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul (emphasis the author's)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Second Daughter's Favorite Song

Repeat, substituting the family member and the animal, as long as big brother, big sister, Mama or Dada can keep on singing. Second Daughter will not tire.

Stories & Poetry

We're going to be reading all the time, but at the suggestion of lots of homeschooling moms, I'm setting aside some particular times for read aloud time and specifically for poetry. By scheduling a story time for which I always pick the stories, I'll hopefully be able to introduce some books I know the children will love, if they just give them a chance. (Children are often creatures of habit.)

We'll be starting on Mondays with Aesop's Fables for Children. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we'll be reading Stuart Little, a book I thought we'd read over the summer but we never really got started. (I have to keep this book out of reach because it's my copy from when I was a little girl and is already very in rough shape. I hope to keep most of the books where the kids can pull them out whenever they like, but we'll see how that goes as I also want to be sure I can find the books we're supposed to read during the day.) On Wednesdays, we'll be reading through Arnold Lobel's Fables. I'm not sure if First Son will want to read these along with Aesop, so we may switch to something else, but I've had it on the shelf for a while and wanted to give it a try. On Fridays, we have a special treat. We'll be reading a beautiful copy of Classic Tales of Beatrix Potter, on loan from Grammy.

We'll have an afternoon story session as well. We always read stories together before Quiet Time. First Son and First Daughter each pick a story, and I'll probably have Second Daughter start choosing one as well (or picking one I know she enjoys). We allow them to choose whatever they like (excluding only those that are too long to prevent story selected purely to delay nap time as long as possible). One of the best aspects of building a strong children's collection is that many of the books the children choose are of a high quality.

I always pick a story as well, usually a new one from the current library pile, or one of the wonderful classics (like Miss Rumphius).

I've scheduled time on Tuesdays for Poetry. (There's also time on Wednesday afternoons during our afternoon activity time.) We'll be starting with First Son's favorite poetry collection, Eric Carle's Animals Animals and one of my favorites, A Child's Garden of Verses. We have a few other poetry collections we'll incorporate and will also be on the watch for some from the library, like Dinothesaurus: Prehistoric Poems and Paintings which we recently enjoyed. I mentioned before that First Son seems to respond to poetry about his favorite subjects, so I want to alternate collections to appeal to his interests as well as introduce some of my favorite poems. We're going to avoid Shakespeare and Keats for a while, though.

Art Gallery: First Daughter


A Little Crazy


Art Gallery: First Son

LarryBoy and His Grabber

It's a Girl!

Spotted Bear

Our Music Appreciation for the Year

I didn't want a formal music appreciation time this year, but I did want to introduce some of the works of famous composers. So I decided we'd just play selected pieces during our late morning playtime when we might otherwise listen to something less edifying.

With the help of a fellow homeschooling mom, who has a background in music, I've selected a composer for each month, mainly in chronological order:


She wisely suggested including pieces of different types (piano, symphony, etc.) because otherwise it can all start to sound the same. Karen Andreola also suggested starting at a different piece each time as her girls listened most closely to the first few selections.

We happen to have an extensive collection of Bach, as he is probably my favorite composer. I also requested a couple of CDs from the library. Each day, during our playtime, I'll play one on random. If the kids ask, I'll tell them the name of the composer and the name of the piece, but I don't intend for them to memorize anything. My goal is to develop a familiarity with the music, which will hopefully encourage a greater enjoyment as they grow.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Quote: A Mother's Rule of Life

The culture we live in emphasizes emotions and feelings as the basis for living our lives. Instead of using our reason to judge the objective reality of things, to distinguish good from bad, as a tool for making decisions, we ask ourselves how we feel. Anything that doesn't feel good must be avoided. If I feel good, things are okay. If I don't feel good, whatever is causing those feelings must be bad.

This affects marital communication in a very significant way: if something feels good to me and not to my spouse, he must be wrong. And if something feels bad to me and not to my spouse, then again, he's wrong! If I put my feelings first, I tend to approach a conversation with a set agenda; since I'm right because I feel this way, he must agree. If he doesn't, I don't need to listen; I need only to convince. Hence, I'm never really open to him.

What happens, then, is that underlying realities become obscured. Conflicts can't be resolved. Deadlocks become unbreakable.

Holly Pierlot in A Mother's Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul (emphasis the author's)

Reading through History

I've scheduled time on Mondays and Wednesdays for history and geography, but it's really a focused story time. I've divided American history into some "eras," one for each month. Most of our books will be fiction, folklore and myths, though I might select a non-fiction book if it seemed particularly fascinating. I'd like to start developing a sense of what life was like for children who have lived in different times. I intend (though I haven't done it yet) to begin a family Book of Centuries, but I will not be "teaching" about any time period, just reading engaging and beautiful books and then moving on the next month.

I'm very excited about this plan. I've already picked quite a few wonderful books and am pleased to have a plan for including them. I know, of course, that there are some fabulous books I haven't discovered yet that would be perfect. I'll be working on building our plan over time, but our first cohort might not be as strong as our later ones. Please feel free to make suggestions!

We're starting our first six weeks with books set through the early 1600s. I'm hoping to include Pocahontas if we can get it from the library in time.

We'll also be reading The Legend of the Bluebonnet (one of my favorites), Mystic Horse, The Huron Carol, The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses, and Tattered Sails.

One of my hopes is that each month we'll have at least one book that is set in Kansas or the Great Plains. To the end, I've been doing a little research on Kansas books for our homeschooling next year. I'd rather pick something wonderful from another location than settle for something mediocre, however.

So far I've found a few resources on Kansas books and wanted to document them for future reference (for myself). I'm not sure how many of my regular readers are here in Kansas or other Plains states, but please let me know if you've found any others. Ravenstone Press has a list of children's books about or set in Kansas. The Kansas Center for the Book has a number of resources, in particular the Kansas Notable Books.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Art Appreciation

We'll have arts and crafts one afternoon a week where First Son and First Daughter will have the chance to make something of their own, but I wanted to introduce some art appreciation as well. We're going to start with Come Look with Me: Enjoying Art with Children. We'll look at a picture and talk about it. I'm trying to avoid formal narration, but I think I will ask the kids to tell me what they think of the picture or what they like (or don't like) about it. Following Brandy's lead, we will look at the same piece of art two weeks in a row. I may invite First Son to sit down with some quality art supplies (like a fabulous artist quality set of colored pencils I picked up on clearance recently) to draw something as he feels inspired while looking at the artwork. I won't ask him to copy anything. We'll see, though. It is always nice when he draws anything other than Veggie characters.

We also have, through the generosity of a member, Aline Wolf's How to Use Child Size Masterpieces and the Level 2 and Level 3 cards. I am very tempted to buy a copy of the Level 1 cards and give them a try. So far, I've managed to control the impulse, but we'll see.