Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Kansas Dad's Discovery

Kansas Dad spotted this praying mantis a few weeks ago and, in proper homeschooling fashion, ran back outside with First Son and the camera for a nature lesson.

On a related topic, this is the third flowering vine on our trellis. I believe it's a different kind of clematis than on the other side, something like this. There may also be a fourth vine, maybe one that doesn't flower. It's a bit overwhelming to me, and the first clematis, the one I like the best, has been mostly overgrown by the other vines, so I'm tempted to cut them all back to the roots and see if we can sort them out a bit. I know one of the others is a honeysuckle vine, which brings back fond memories of my youth so I'm inclined to keep it as well. Anyone know if these types of vines can be transplanted? (Not that I know where else we'd put them.)

Quote: Gift and Mystery

Sometimes I would wake up during the night and find my father on his knees, just as I would always see him kneelingin the parish church. We never spoke about a vocation to the priesthood, but his example was in a way my first seminary, a kind of domestic seminary.

John Paul II in Gift and Mystery

On His Own

I've been encouraging First Son to play or read on his own during nap time. I'm hoping to make that some time I can devote to my own pet projects (or exercising, which isn't as much fun but is supposedly good for me). When I gently but repeatedly refused to make a play-doh octopus for him, he finally made one himself.

And a fine octopus it is, too.

Then the hippo ate it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Just Like Us

Click here. Substitute First Son for Hammie and Second Daughter for Wren and you pretty much know what our life is like on the Range.


I took these pictures a few days after my post on Second Daughter's climbing skills. I know they're vastly out of date (as far as toddlers go), but I can't resist sharing. I am as proud as I am terrified.

And now you know just how far behind on the pictures I am (September 10th...). Oy.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Doing What Must Be Done

Well, what I really wanted to do today was go through our pictures so I can have them ready to order and so I can write posts on Second Daughter's birthday party (last Sunday), our first field trip (last Monday), our first Nature Study Club (last Friday) or one of the many other topics rolling around in my head.

Instead, I spent my bit of free time revising our schedule and writing my rough lesson plans for October, which needed to be done. (Um, I also took a long nap but that's not really important here.) Here's the new and improved more-likely-to-fit-our-real-life schedule:

I've changed our start time to 9:10 am, to reflect the fact that we always started at 9 anyway. I moved lunch earlier because Second Daughter is much happier all day long if she eats lunch at 11:30 am instead of 12 pm. I moved some reading to after lunch and had to cut some outside time, but it was hard getting out twice in the morning anyway (and I don't think it would be easier with the dog). Let's see...other changes...I cut out the math review on Tuesdays and Thursdays because First Son is doing so well with it (maybe someday I'll post about math...). I moved poetry to Wednesday and history to Friday because we're more likely to miss on Wednesdays and we all like history more than poetry here on the Range. I eliminated our formal Nature Study time on Fridays and hope to explain why in another post. I'm eliminating our video watching on Tuesdays and Thursdays and identifying who gets to choose the video on the other days. I'm hoping this will cut down on some of the squabbling we've had (though Kansas Dad rightly pointed out they'll probably just bicker over something else).

There were some other tweaks, too. We'll give this a try for October and see how it goes.

I'm also adding a memory verse this week. Kansas Dad looked over the recommended list for first graders in Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum: A Guide to Catholic Home Education and picked one for us: "Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." (Psalm 118:105)

I wasn't tired of homeschooling, but having a new schedule adds some excitement back for this week. I'm also looking forward to a new month: a new opening song (Glory and Praise To Our God) and a new composer for our music appreciation, both of which we'll start on Friday.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Moving from Bach to Handel

We've been listening to Bach for the month of September (and the few days in August we had school) and enjoying it immensely (or at least, I have been enjoying it). I did request a few CDs from the library that fit the bill perfectly, giving us a variety of his most memorable compositions: The Masterpiece Collection: Bach and The Johann Sebastian Bach Collection. I've requested our Handel CDs for the month of October and hope they turn out as well. (It was very difficult to find library copies that weren't just the Messiah, Christmas music, or "wedding" music.)

I don't know if the kids have learned anything, but I heard some classical music on a TV show recently and immediately identified it as Bach. There are definitely benefits to restricting our classical music to a single composer for a month, even if we don't learn the names of the individual pieces.

The kids and I had a wonderful time at our Nature Study Club this morning. I think I have some pictures to share, but am loathe to turn on the desktop (where I store all the pictures) as it's now storming. (I know, it's silly, but it's one irrational fear I can indulge without impinging on our lifestyle too much.)

Must run through the shower now when there's no thunder! (Another irrational fear...)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

My Small Success XIII

It's hard to believe it's Thursday already, and time for more Small Successes.

1. My mom and I made these lovely jars of applesauce and tomatoes. It was my first time using a water bath canner and it wasn't as hard as I thought. It was also much harder than I thought, but we were had ambitious goals for the day. We also sliced some apples for the freezer, so an apple pie is in soon as I've recovered. By the way, my mom brought her Pinzon Apple and Potato Peeler, Corer, and Slicer and it's amazing. I told her that's what I want for Christmas. I also finally chopped and froze the growing pile of hot chili peppers on our counter. Let's not think about the hundreds still out on the plants.

2. First Daughter's birthday party was a success! I hate birthday parties, not attending them (that's great), but hosting them. I'd much rather declare our family a non-birthday-party-family, but Kansas Dad says they're required. He planned the games (apple bobbing for preschoolers and a pumpkin hunt) and I managed some cupcakes and an apple cake decorated with cut-out apple cookies. First Daughter's favorite part was when the Bob cake-topper got all dirty (with frosting) on the cupcake. The highlight for most guests seemed to be when Kansas Dad showed them how to catch grasshoppers and feed them to the chickens.

3. I did not exercise last Monday, so I missed a session. I planned on missing it because my parents were in town and I wasn't comfortable working out while they sat on the futon right behind me and watched, but I was all prepared to surprise you by making it up on Tuesday. Instead, we adopted a dog. I may still make it up on Saturday. I did, however, exercise at my regularly scheduled time on Wednesday. I'm considering this a success because I didn't let missing a session derail me altogether. (Too convoluted?) I was nervous with the dog, worried he would get in the way, but I put his pillow down and rewarded him a few times with treats and attention. He only strayed a few times right at the beginning. (I don't know what his previous owners were thinking; he's fantastic.)

Bonus: We had our first homeschool field trip (pictures still to come) at the botanical gardens. Still to come this week: our first Nature Study Club meeting.

Head over to Faith & Family Live for more Small Successes!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Subtraction in Action

Today, First Son and I made Rice Krispie treats for First Daughter's birthday snack at the little preschool tomorrow. All on his own, he started announcing to me how many cups we still needed as we measured out the cereal and the marshmallows.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Pretty Picture

And Then, There Was Moses

We've had a very busy few days. My parents arrived last Friday. Mom and I and a friend spent most of Saturday canning tomatoes and applesauce, as well as making chocolate cupcakes and an apple cake. We had a small birthday party on Sunday with a few of First Daughter's friends. Yesterday, we had our first homeschool field trip to a local botanical gardens where we ran around and even watched them tag a Monarch for us. My parents left this morning and we were supposed to have lessons today before we have a few more away from home activities for the rest of the week.

Instead, we jumped in the van with Kansas Dad to see a puppy he found on the Humane Society website.

Now before you think we're too crazy, we've been talking about getting a dog since we moved out here. It's one of the reasons we were excited to own a home. It just hasn't been a priority. Kansas Dad saw this darling little puppy, though, and we couldn't resist.

Of course, said darling puppy was adopted by another woman about half an hour after we got there. We visited a few other dogs. One was too jumpy. One didn't pay enough attention to us. We were on the verge of leaving without a dog when one of the volunteers said she thought there was a dog that would be perfect for us.

Apparently, he was, because we brought him home.

Meet Moses, freshly washed:

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed at the thought of keeping three kids and a dog I don't know under control while homeschooling tomorrow (after deciding to stay home rather than venture out for our playgroup), but so far Moses has been fabulous and I think he'll make a great addition to our family.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What I Don't Recommend

Spending all day Saturday in the kitchen canning tomatoes, making applesauce and slicing apples for the freezer and baking cupcakes and apple cake for a three year old's birthday party to be held at your house the next day.

But at least we only broke two jars (an empty one and my little salt jar).

Friday, September 18, 2009

Something to Ponder

I mentioned before that we let the kids choose nearly anything for our pre-quiet time stories. Today, First Daughter picked this:

Never mind that it's September and that, if she must pick something with gifts, you'd think she'd pick something birthday-related since her birthday is next week.

First Son picked this:

I can't explain that one at all.

For the curious soul, I picked this one: There Is a Bird On Your Head!. It's not the kind of book I usually pick, but I needed something shorter because Second Daughter was already asking for her nap and I like to read before she falls asleep. First Son and I had fun taking turns. I was Elephant and he was Piggie.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Conquering Illness & Getting Something Done

It's been a slow week on the blog, mostly because I was sick earlier in the week and now I'm busy preparing for a visit from my parents and a little party for First Daughter's birthday. I did want to take a few minutes to post some small successes, though.

1. I'm still exercising! What's that now? Eleven times? I even worked out on Monday when I was feeling sick and exhausted. (Something to do with having a cold and being up with a crying baby for two hours in the middle of the night.)

2. I ordered the September pictures. Can you believe Snapfish doesn't print the file name on the back of the picture? Such a disappointment. Winkflash and Shutterfly both do. So they're not in albums yet, but neither are the August pictures which do have file names on the back. However (this is supposed to be a post about successes, after all), I did get the sunflower picture Kansas Dad took into the frame in the bathroom. First Son noticed it immediately, "Mama! I have wonderful news! There's a sunflower in the bathroom!"

3. We have our first group activity meeting today. I volunteered to help in the nursery and put together two bags of toys and crafts to take to keep the four and under crowd entertained (along with the contributions of two other moms). And I did it yesterday!

Head over to Faith & Family for more small successes!

Query IX

How unreasonable is it to feel anger when the remote controller won't work to stop rewinding the exercise tape after I've exercised?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Query VIII

I know it counted as science when First Son and I watched a spider spin a web just outside our kitchen window last night after dinner.

I know it counts as science when Second Daughter drops things over and over again.

But does it count as science when First Son says "Watch what happens when I crush this Rice Krispie with the back of my spoon! Let's try that again!"?

And what about when Someone drops a bowl of Rice Krispies and one flies up into the air and gets "caught" in a spider web?

On the bright side, as I was sweeping up the remnants of said bowl, I saw a hummingbird right outside the window.

Now, after oversleeping because Second Daughter screamed uncontrollably for two hours last night, and the extra clean-up time in the kitchen, we're about to start school. Only an hour and fifteen minutes late.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Quote: What to Read When

Through books and stories that are designed to be read aloud, we convey to our children the beauty of language and the joys of rhythm and rhyme; and in the books we choose to read and the way we read them, we also convey the values we hold dear. Every day as you pack a lunch, wave good-bye to a school bus, tie a shoelace, braid a ponytail, the words you want to say to your child hum inside: I love you, be safe, I love you, be free. I love you, I love you, I love you, let the world treat you kindly, come back to me. Here are the values of my life, our family, here is what I hope for you, here is what I dream for you. And yet, for most of us, too many moments slip by and we're lucky to get an "I love you" in edgewise. The good news, wondrously, is that the world is full of literature written by people who know you are longing to make connections and are striving to put a voice to them.

Pam Allyn in What to Read When: The Books and Stories to Read with Your Child--and All the Best Times to Read Them

She offers suggestions for particular ages, but I like her fifty themes the best, "books for the moments that matter most." I have skimmed through enough to know I would not read all of these books to my children; they just wouldn't fit our family. There are so many wonderful selections we already know and love, though, that I'm eager to try a few new titles. Ms. Allyn has provided descriptions of every book to help guide parents in choosing wisely for themselves. As a new release, it also lists a number of more recent titles, like Library Lion (2006). I love that book.

This was a bit of a review in addition to the quote. I hope you'll forgive me.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Our Science Studies

I've set aside time for science, officially, once a week, on Tuesday afternoons. Sometimes, we'll just be reading a science book or baking (because that's always scientific, don't you think?), but I did purchase Bubbles, Rainbows and Worms for some fun ideas.

One recent afternoon, we experimented with mixing colors. First Son has been particularly interested in mixing when painting, so this was a natural addition.

First Daughter pretty much just made a mess, and tired of it pretty quickly. I wish I had thought ahead more and read Mouse Paint earlier in the day. (We have it. I just didn't think about it.)

I don't intend to be systematic with science, just have some fun. I'm sure it will often be blended with our Nature Study as well.

Quote: Mudpuppy's Picnic

When he was not busy tending his little blue cottage on Thimbleberry Lane, Nigel Chipmunk often liked to walk down to Passalong Pond, where his friend Mudpuppy lived. Mudpuppy was a stout, gray salamander who was always trying to improve himself. He did leg-lifts each morning, ate only the worst-tasting foods because he thought they were better for him, and even one summer tried to read every book in the Thimbleberry Library so he might become a more interesting salamander. In spite of Mudpuppy's attempts at perfection, Nigel very much enjoyed his company, especially since Mudpuppy was such a good boatman.

The delightful Cynthia Rylant in Thimbleberry Stories

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Welcome Pollinators!

The batch of flowers right in front of our porch are apparently extremely attractive to butterflies, moths and bees. We've had quite the gathering there in the past few days. Kansas Dad and I are thinking of trying to move the plants to somewhere near the garden. (They are reasonably pretty, but only bloom for a short time and have the unfortunate habit of sending the scent of onions wafting around the front door every time someone brushes one.)

I think this is a Viceroy.

I'm pretty sure this is a carpenter bee. I haven't noticed any holes, so perhaps we can hope they are pollinating without doing any damage.

Quote: The Well-Adjusted Child

You have no doubt seen articles and editorials in the general media that rely on the opinions of school experts, primarily in the form of principals, teachers, and school board personnel, to comment on the pros and cons of homeschooling. This is unfair to both the experts and the public they are speaking to because these individuals are being called upon to comment on something they have little or no knowledge of. Unaware that homeschooling is not "school at home" but something different entirely, these experts invariably explain that homeschoolers miss out on important social experiences. Their concern is genuine, yet their experience lies in the area of school, not homeschool, and they are not able to speak accurately about homeschooling, especially in its social aspects. Still, they are heralded as the authorities on homeschooling and are rarely expected to support their opinions with factual evidence.

Rachel Gathercole in The Well-Adjusted Child: The Social Benefits of Homeschooling

My Small Successes XI

It's time for Small Successes again.

1. I have exercised every Monday, Wednesday and Friday since we started homeschooling. That's eight times. (How many times can I put this as a Small Success, do you think?)

2. Kansas Dad built the new chicken coop and moved the ladies to it. Now they have lots of room to roam. (I know, it's not really my success, but I managed to keep the kids from hurting themselves too badly as he built it, so I feel I contributed a little.)

3. I already made the cake decorations for First Daughter's birthday. Remember: parchment paper is your friend.

Head over to Faith & Family for more Small Successes.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Climbing Ever Higher

We store the bunk bed ladder on the top bunk during the day. It eliminates my need to drag the kids down when it's time to wash hands, eat lunch or have lessons. I also don't have to worry about First Daughter climbing up there during her nap time. (First Son is under strict instructions to call us if she tries to climb up at night while he's in it.) I figured it couldn't hurt to keep it out of Second Daughter's reach, too. I didn't want her practicing too much.

I never imagined she'd be able to climb it.

Yeah. All the way to the top. Tonight, just before bed (when it was down so First Son could get in).

Need I remind you she is not yet 14 months old? She's barely walking!

Query VII

Should I worry about First Son watching my exercise tape?

In general, I think it's a good thing when he watches me exercise. He sees that I'm taking my health seriously, as I want him to take his. A few weeks ago, though, he told me the woman on the tape makes him shy (as if she could see him). And today, he led First Daughter through a three minute exercise routine complete with a cool down nearly word for word from the beginning of the cool down on my tape.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Home for the Ladies

Kansas Dad finished our second coop over the Labor Day weekend. We moved all the hens into it last night as a storm was coming on, but we had time to count them. We officially have ten roosters and ten hens.

First Son thinks we should name one of the hens Tillie. I love listening to the roosters crow. First Son and I always wonder if one will have The Rooster's Gift. (There are just so many good chicken books!)

Organizing a Preview List

Just in case you were considering using Amazon to manage your book lists, but never got around to it...I wanted to let you know they recently made some little changes to the Wish List that make it a lot easier. My favorite updates: jumping to pages with links at the bottom, "Move to another list" right under each book, and the much slicker Remove link.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Quote: The All-American Cookie

Today, chocolate chip cookies are far and away America's favorite; we eat an estimated several billion of them annually. (Which meas that, over the years, this cookie has actually launched trillions of chips!) In honor of the phenomenal success, Massachusetts has declared the Toll House cookie its state cookie.

Nancy Baggett on Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

Friday, September 4, 2009

And Two New Teeth

I almost forgot...Second Daughter has two new teeth - that makes eight (so far). Now, if only her teething pain will go away soon...

It makes her grumpy.

Baby's First Words

bye bye
all done
water (wawa)

And now....


As in, the Tomato.

Yeah, that's right. Mama and Dada have yet to make the cut.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Quote: The Well-Adjusted Child

We imagine that their [homeschoolers'] lives are characterized by an absence, an emptiness, which for other children is filled with school. We think of school as a given, and, ironically, have come to view many of the most beneficial social aspects of homeschooling as drawbacks or flaws simply because they are different from a typical school social life. This is the result of a commonly held belief that school is the "gold standard" for socialization...

Rachel Gathercole in The Well-Adjusted Child: The Social Benefits of Homeschooling

This Is My Life

It's time for more small successes. Does posting about small successes count as a small success? I missed out last week even though we'd had three good days of homeschooling.

1. The kids have been outside at least once every day of homeschooling. I'm very proud of this fact because taking them outside is a hassle, but I had hoped to get them outside at least twice a day. I'm probably going to end up changing the schedule a bit. Stay tuned. (I know you're all on the edge of your seats.)

2. I seriously cleaned the kitchen dining area on Tuesday, including all the cinnamon we had spread on the window sills to keep out the ants. (They hate cinnamon, but apparently they were getting in somewhere else.) I even mopped again. I also showed First Son how to wash windows, though he wasn't as interested as I'd hoped. (It's so nice to be able to post this for Small Successes. Have you ever noticed how it's much more obvious when things are dirty than when things are clean?)

3. I have worked out faithfully three days a week since we started our school year. (That's five times, for those of you trying to do the math in your head.)

Read more Small Successes at Faith & Family Live!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Shoes You Can Use

When I finally figured out the best way for us to store the shoes the kids weren't wearing, I planned to post about it. (You never know, it might help someone else!) I finally took the time to write it when I saw this week was an organization theme over at Works for Me Wednesday.

I save shoes, just like I save clothes, which means storing them. I try to buy ahead for First Son and the girls always have a sizable pile in sizes bigger and smaller from my nieces. I used to try to keep shoes with the clothes, but it always seemed like shoe sizes and clothing sizes changed at different times. So I finally decided to store them separately.

I put all the shoes in big plastic bags by size. I reuse plastic bags and they are very useful for shoes even if they have a small hole or two (unlike, say, for chicken broth).

I separate the boy and girl shoes (one big plastic container for the girls, two for boys now that First Son is five and we've collected quite a few).

It's really easy to switch shoes (in with the old and out with the "new"). I keep the empty bags right in the bins so they're ready for the switch. It's also easy to take a quick stock of what we might need for upcoming sizes. Since they're stored by size, it's also very easy to see if we've got redundant shoes and could spare some for someone else.

Check out more organizing posts over at Works for Me Wednesday!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Her Thoughtful Spot

Second Daughter likes to clear the top of the shoe rack (throwing them wherever they may fall), climb up, and relax with a good book (or just enjoy the view).

It makes for a very messy entryway, but she's so cute we forgive her.

For those interested, she's sporting the Fuzzi Bunz OneSize diaper in pink, very reliable and quite adorable.

Quote: The Well-Adjusted Child

Although people commonly complained about a growing "generation gap," the failings of school systems, the deterioration of values among youths, violence in schools, and so on, still many people came to believe that it was necessary and inherently appropriate that children be in this environment and exhibit these behaviors. Eventually, it came to be thought that school, in spite of its failings, was the one right place for children to grow up and become socialized. Any other environment was, by default, barren, empty, unhealthy, and sad.

Still, a few people felt in their gut that their children didn't belong there. And thus came homeschoolers.

Rachel Gathercole in The Well-Adjusted Child: The Social Benefits of Homeschooling