Thursday, June 30, 2011

My Small Successes XLIV

I seem to have developed a pattern of posting Small Successes every other week. I'm going to say it's because summer-time is buy around here, rather than I only manage to be successful every couple of weeks.

1. Yesterday, the three little ones and I went to the zoo in the blazing heat while First Son was at Totus Tuus. I had promised a fun trip because they would very much like to be at Totus Tuus but are too young. Of course, they chose the zoo when it's 100 degrees. But we went, had a great time exploring the Australia and South American exhibits (which are at their best in the summer and we hardly ever see them), and made it home without any sunburns.

2. Kansas Dad and I hosted the Totus Tuus team for dinner one night. We overestimated greatly how much they would eat, but I think everyone was well-fed, which is what matters most.

3. I started my liturgical year binder and it already makes me happy. I'm making notes in one place of all the great resources I have for feast days and sacrament preparation. Kansas Dad laughed at me a little last night, but he understands my love of organization. And binders. I love binders. Silly reason #41 to homeschool.

Second Daughter had a success, too. Yesterday, she went a complete day wearing underwear without a single accident! Hooray for Second Daughter and a whole day without carpet cleaning! (Shall we talk about what she wore to the zoo and our church potluck? She selected a stylin' VeggieTales Christmas t-shirt with a long ruffly yellow skirt. I was just glad she dressed herself so we could get out the door to drop off her brother. No one at the zoo said anything, but I did get a few comments at the church dinner.)

Head over to Chocolate for Your Brain to read more Small Successes.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Catholic Company Review: Marriage: Small Steps, Big Rewards

Marriage: Small Steps, Big Rewards by Dr. Ray Guarendi

Kansas Dad and I think we have a pretty strong marriage, but I imagine the marriage relationship is one that's never standing still. In this book, Dr. Ray Guarendi provides ten small steps to improve a marriage, particularly one in distress. These steps are indeed small, actions as small as touching your spouse, but being small does not make them easy.

For each step, Dr. Guarendi gives a short explanation, usually no more than two or three pages. Then he provides responses to a few anticipated "Resistance Rationales," reasons you or your spouse may give to avoid implementing the step. Finally, he provides a brief scenario, showing how the step may play out.

I found the tone of the book very accepting and encouraging, but still blunt enough to push you toward taking a chance and trying the step. He didn't promise immediate results, either, which is good because you are less likely to become discouraged before seeing a change and give up too soon.

My favorite step was directed at fathers in particular: Protect. Dr. Guarendi tells fathers they must step in when mothers are being overwhelmed in arguments with children. After reading the chapter, I noticed how often Kansas Dad does this. He never lets the children talk back to me, yell or become aggressive toward me in his hearing without responding immediately. More than feeling protected, though, his actions make me feel like we are a team in disciplining and training the children. It is such a blessing to tackle this monumental task with him.

I cannot say how beneficial these steps would be in a troubled marriage, but they all seem like solid steps to improve a relationship. I would certainly encourage anyone interested to give them a try, especially if your marriage is not quite struggling but not quite as well-supported as you would like it to be.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. In exchange for an honest review, I received a free copy of this book. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Marriage - Small Steps, Big Rewards. They are also a great source for a Catechism of the Catholic Church or a Catholic Bible.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

No Beeping Here

Second Daughter, as she peeks out of her bedroom long past bedtime: But I'm not beepy, Mommy. Not at all.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Our First Grade Memory Verses

I love helping First Son and First Daughter to memorize parts of the Bible. It seems like such a blessing to have a mind

I mentioned before, we started using the memory verse system at Simply Charlotte Mason this year and it's working very well for us. I wrote up the verses we memorized last year and slipped them in on the odd/even days and into the days of the week. I skip Saturday and Sunday because I always forgot to read them. One day I'd like to make our memory verses and memory work a part of breakfast, but I have other more pressing habits to develop for the moment.

Everything works swimmingly as long as I remember to keep the box where Second Daughter can't reach it. She likes to rearrange the cards. In fact, between her rearranging and a couple of drops, I started numbering the cards so it would be a little easier to replace them properly.

Sometimes it's difficult to know which verses will be most appropriate for the young ones. I'm not sure I've selected the best ten or twelve verses for first graders, but they did seem to work well for us. I copied all our verses from the NRSV.
  • Matt 18: 20
  • Psalm 139: 13-14
  • Matt 22: 37-38
  • Rom 8: 28
  • John 3: 5
  • John 20: 22b-23
  • John 6: 35
  • Tobit 4: 16
  • 1 Peter 4: 8
  • Psalm 33: 22
  • Genesis 1: 1-2
Before the year started, I selected a large number of verses I thought would be appropriate or that I particularly liked. I copied a great many onto index cards (though not all of them, once I realized how many I had selected) and stored them at the back of our box. When First Son has memorized a verse, I simple select a new one from the back of the box. Eventually I want to be sure we've memorized at least one verse from each book of the Bible, but we have plenty of time for that.

My plan was to continue reading our memory verses through the summer, but we've been a bit lazy. Hopefully posting about it will renew my dedication.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Second Son Is Eleven Months

It's been a long time coming, but we are approaching Second Son's first birthday. I cannot possibly express to you how sweet, wonderful, and delightful he is now. I watch his lovely chubby arms and legs as he explores toys and whatever else the others leave on the floor and want to scoop him up and kiss him all over. I watch him drop everything and crawl frantically and hopefully toward open doors to the bathroom, the office or the master bedroom and laugh along with him. Oh, it is good to be Second Son's mom!

I did take some picture on his 11-month-birthday, but they're still on the camera. I am very very close now to having a new-to-me laptop with a functioning battery and thought it would be better to wait to put the pictures on it. Hopefully they'll be posted here later.

Second is eating nearly everything we eat now. He wants to eat everything we eat. He'll look directly at something in my hand or on my plate and screech to show that he sees I have something he doesn't have. Sadly, he's not quite ready for raw vegetables or raisins, yet. We try to keep the choking hazards and sweets out of his diet.

Speaking of meals, Second Son easily eats more than First Daughter and Second Daughter at nearly every meal. That boy can eat nearly as much roast beef as I do.

He's night-weaned. It wasn't something I'd really planned. The other three babies all nursed at night much longer than they did during the day and I was not too distressed by it. In fact, with First Son I was working full-time and pumping three days a week, so was much happier to give up a daytime nursing than an nighttime one. Second Son was sleeping through the night almost every night, though, so one night I just decided I wouldn't nurse him when he did wake. We snuggled him then put him back in his crib. That was about three weeks ago and he hasn't woken during the night since. He usually sleeps until 7 or 7:30 am, but I'll get him and nurse and snuggle anytime after 5 am.

The long sleepful nights are awesome. I lay him down around 8 pm and he often sleeps eleven hours. Very impressive! Naps, in consequence, are much less impressive. Sometimes he'll take a morning nap from about 10:30 am to 11:15 am. But sometimes he doesn't. Sometimes he'll sleep for about an hour in the afternoons starting around 3 pm, but not always. I am willing to sacrifice daytime sleeping for nighttime sleeping.

He has three teeth! The third one came in on June 19th (Father's Day) and the fourth is just under his gums. Soon he'll have two teeth on the bottom and two teeth on the top. They are, of course, adorable. Hopefully we'll also have a little while without teething pain.

When I'm changing his diaper, I'll say "How big is [baby]?" and he always throws his hands up above his head. Then I tickle him under his arms. I'll repeat it and he'll raise his arms again. After a few times, he'll start to giggle before he even raises his arms. He never tires of this game.

He also never tires of peek-a-boo. I cannot understand how fascinating that is for babies, but I've heard it's universal. The older kids love to play peek-a-boo with him and he laughs and laughs.

Second Son is obsessed with electrical outlets, electrical cords, the bathroom, my Kindle, the Wii, the buttons on the TV, the yeast dispenser on my bread machine, the dog's water bowl, pencils, books (not the board books, oh no, books with paper pages!), Wii remotes, the Wii balance board, doors (he likes to open and almost close them), the plug for the cordless phone (which, when unplugged, disables the cordless one and sends me racing over the baby gate and through the kitchen to grab the one off the wall), pulling my hair, grabbing eyeglasses, grabbing anything on the kitchen table, and (most recently) pulling up my shirt and chewing on it. I'm sure he'll find more favorite things as he discovers more we say he should not have.

Have I mentioned he's adorable?

He's wearing mostly large diapers. I hardly use the prefolds anymore because he needs two. He usually wears toddler or size two fitted diapers with Duo-Wrap Thirsties covers or Knickernappies pocket diapers (the old version one) stuffed with Super-Dos. No regular insert for him, oh no!

He had his first cookie this week. A delicious sugar cookie recipe I hope to share here eventually colored for Trinity Cookies for the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity. He wanted one and I relented. Please don't judge me.

He says "dadadada" and "mamama" and all sorts of other cute baby syllables, but we're still waiting for the official Dada or Mama.

I remember when he first started really crawling to get from one place to another how he would giggle to himself as he moved along, delighted in his new skill. He will often crawl for a few feet, then stop to sit up and look around. Perhaps he wants to know someone is watching him. He'll smile and move on.

If he's crawling toward trouble, Kansas Dad or I will call his name. Second Son will sit back, wiggle his chubby legs and grin at us, then continue on his way.

He will sometimes pull himself up, but he loves it when someone stands him next to something like the futon. Kansas Dad says he saw him cruise a little, but I'm going to pretend that didn't happen.

One more month and my little baby will be one year old! I haven't regretted a moment of this first year, but I admit to being terribly happy to be right where we are.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Home on the Range Choices for Studying Greek Myths with Little Ones

Three weeks ago, I posted our review of Connecting with History Volume 1. I intended to follow it a few days later with this post, but I've been having trouble following through on my blogging plans. Such is life with four little ones, even in the summer. Or perhaps, especially in the summer.

I mentioned in the review that we loved nearly every book recommended by the Volume 1 syllabus. There were some books we did not read together because our library did not have them and I didn't buy every single book. Of the ones we read, though, most were wonderful. Except for Unit 7 when we were supposed to read some of the Greek myths and fables. I think the recommendations for the beginner level were inexpensive, which is good, but I opted instead to use a few resources we had on our shelves or at our local library. I imagine other people will be studying Greek myths and fables, even if you don't purchase Connecting with History (though I highly recommend it), so I thought I'd post what we read and enjoyed.

First of all, we've been reading Aesop's Fables for Children, illustrated by Milo Winter, for the past two years. I read one or two fables each week and First Son narrated them. Honestly, for nearly two years, these are the only readings he consistently narrated successfully. First Daughter can also narrate them well. The children love the illustrations and I've been pleased with the translation (not that I can compare with the Greek, though I could ask Kansas Dad to do so for me). This particular book comes with a CD which we've never played. I wanted to read them myself during our lesson time. I plan to take the CD in the van with us sometime this summer when we have a break between audio books. Another collection we found at our library and enjoyed is Unwitting Wisdom : An Anthology of Aesop's Fables by Helen Ward. If you are purchasing and can only buy one, I'd recommend the Milo Winter book.

The Lion & the MouseThe Lion and the Mouse illustrated by Jerry Pinkney is a wonderful adaptation of one of Aesop's fables. Mr. Pinkney, who happens to be a favorite illustrator of mine, has created a beautiful wordless picture book. I think it would be interesting to ask a young child to narrate this book before reading the traditional fable together. (I didn't do that because my children had already heard the fable.) We all loved this book. I think even Second Daughter could narrate it by the time we returned it to the library.

King Midas and the Golden Touch by Charlotte Craft is one of the few picture books I like of a Greek myth. It's well illustrated and well told. The children enjoyed it as well.

We also read selections from D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths, which is recommended for the grammar level (I think) in Connecting with History. We own a copy of this wonderful book as a gift from dear friends, so I had it on the shelf already. Though I think many first or second graders may be happy listening to these stories, First Son's attention wandered a bit. We'll read them more thoroughly the next time we study Ancient history.

Another good option may be Classic Myths to Read Aloud by William F. Russell. I've only read a few of these myself, but I've recently purchased it for next year. It's recommended for Mater Amabilis Level 1A. We'll read one tale a week. They are divided into two reading levels. For each myth, there's a summary, pronunciation guide, and estimate of the reading time. It looks very promising.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Book Review: The Greatest Dot to Dot Books in the World

The Greatest Dot-to-Dot Book in the World, Book 1First Son loves dot to dots. Most of the time he breezes through them, but still enjoys every minute. Kansas Dad found The Greatest Dot-to-Dot Book in the World, Book 1 on Amazon and we bought it for First Son months ago. It was much more challenging than any others he had done, but he loved it. It entertained him for hours at a time over many months. The pictures are much more difficult to discern in advance than most dot to dot books. While some follow the standard protocol (connect the dots in order from 1 to something like 150), many have more involved instructions like connect 1 to 50, raise your pencil, connect 51 to 75, raise your pencil...etc. I think there were even a few that instructed First Son to connect the odds then connect the evens. It was such a winner, we purchased The Greatest Dot-to-Dot Book in the World (Book 2) for First Son over the holidays. He's still working his way through it. It's one of the first books I grab when I know we'll be waiting somewhere for a while. There's a whole series and I imagine we'll eventually collect them all.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sibling Rivalry

What does it say about my children that the older three fight constantly over who gets to talk with the baby, who gets to move him when he gets too close to the TV, and who gets to tickle him while I'm changing his diaper?

Who am I kidding? It's adorable! I love that they love him so.

In the past, they also argued over who would sit next to him at meals until First Son and First Daughter devised a schedule. First Daughter sits next to the baby's high chair at breakfast. First Son sits next to him at lunch and Second Daughter sits next to him at dinner. They keep careful watch over any who stray from the schedule, too.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Quote: The Phantom Tollbooth

Norton Juster in The Phantom Tollbooth:
"You'll find," he remarked gently, "that the only thing you can do easily is be wrong, and that's hardly worth the effort."

Monday, June 20, 2011

Time for What?

Kansas Dad, sitting at the table after dinner: Well, I guess it's that time.

First Daughter: Is it time for S-O-P-I-O?

Thoughts on Potty Training

Brandy at Afterthoughts wrote a post last week on potty training which happened to come at just the right time for us here on the Range. Second Daughter, who refused to train while we were under chicken pox quarantine, has made great strides recently. I have therefore been contemplating the subject and decided to make a few comments, much less thoughtfully than Brandy did.
  • A month ago, I tried to get Second Daughter to use the bathroom instead of her diaper. She was interested, but not enough to make an effort to get to the bathroom if she didn't feel like it. Last week, she asked to use the bathroom on her own and we went from there. Waiting for the child was the strategy that worked for First Son and First Daughter (with lots of talking about it and reading My Big Boy Potty and My Big Girl Potty by Joanna Cole). I should have followed the same one with Second Daughter and saved myself the extra work.

  • The good news - I'm washing a lot fewer diapers. The bad news - we're washing the carpet quite a bit.

  • Older siblings are great trainers. Second Daughter seemed much more successful when she was accompanied by First Son or First Daughter than by me. They were also entertained...for a couple of hours. It's been days now and they're not so excited when she asks them to come along.

  • Second Daughter likes being bare-bottomed. She is allowed a piece of candy when she's successful in the bathroom, but only if she puts her underwear back on. She forgoes the candy shockingly often. I'm afraid I'm spoiling her, but she's just so cute running around without bottoms on I can't bring myself to fight her on it. Plus, she's more likely to make it to the bathroom in time.

  • Though she doesn't always like to put her underwear back on, she does like to carry it around the house. She is constantly dropping it when distracted by...well, anything. So we have a disturbing number of pairs of underwear scattered in the living room and the kids' bedroom. Second Son often finds it for me. (At least it's clean since she's not wearing it.)

  • She is fully clothed when we go out, but she often fights me on it. Since she was fighting me every time we went anywhere anyway, I'm almost happy to be able to better anticipate the exact nature of the battle.

  • Second Daughter continues to have at least one accident a day. I'm a bit at a loss with this situation as First Son and First Daughter each had one. Just one. How long will the accidents continue? It's not clear.

  • She has not yet been successful on an outing outside the house. I'm afraid it may be confusing her to keep putting a diaper on her when we're going out, but I'm not anxious to deal with an accident. She tries to use the restroom when we are out, but never does. Then she has a wet diaper. I might be tempted to let her have an accident away from home if she managed a full day at home without one.  (See above.) Again, this was not an issue with the first two.

  • Second Daughter has had a lot of candy in the past week. Eventually we're going to have to cut back on the rewards. First Son received candy for about three days, then stopped asking for it. First Daughter never received any at all.

  • Shall we talk about the fact that I bought three new diapers in the past month to augment our stash which was a bit too small with both of them in diapers? I had plenty of prefolds, but Second Son needs two and they are so bulky! I guess I don't mind so much because now he won't have to wear the purple covers. Oh, who am I kidding? I love buying diapers and the new ones are cute! If I can tear myself away from previewing books for next year's homeschool or having fun writing our plans for next year, I'll take some pictures and share them with you.

  • I'll be glad when this potty-training thing is done completely and I really and truly think I won't miss it. (It helps that I still have one in diapers full-time.) I am not ashamed to admit I'm still captivated by Second Daughter's adorable chubbiness. She'll be three next month and I know that baby fat is going to burn off in the near future.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Book Review: Cooking with Henry and Elliebelly

Cooking with Henry and ElliebellyCooking with Henry and Elliebelly by Carolyn Parkhurst

This book is one of the best picture books I've read in a long time for pure silliness. Henry is hosting a cooking show with his adorable and exasperating two year old sister Eleanor (aka Elliebelly).

Hilarity ensues.

I especially love the commercial: "Buy a car! Buy a giraffe! Buy a rocket ship! Buy some pudding! NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW!!!"

Henry is a wise child.

First Son and First Daughter were inspired to create their own cooking show.

Kansas also has a little cameo in the book.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My Small Successes XLIII

Time for some small successes!

1. I have exercised every day in the past two weeks.

2. Last night, there was a spider the size of a baseball in our bathroom. I have issues with spiders, but restrained myself from screaming bloody murder four feet from my baby's crib. Instead, I walked carefully to where Kansas Dad was reading and quietly informed him of the monster in the bathroom. After a brief quiet battle, he emerged victorious. Baby slept through the whole thing.

3. Second Son is officially night-weaned. He goes to bed around 8 or 8:30 pm and sleeps at least until 5 am, but more often until 7 or 7:30 am. He'll be 11 months old next week. While I think it would be acceptable to be nursing him at night, he often slept through on his own so this week I just decided I would not nurse him during the night. I'm not sure he noticed.

Now...if only I could sleep through the night!

Head over to Chocolate for Your Brain for more Small Successes!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Product Review: Wabash Valley Farms 25008 Whirley-Pop Stovetop Popcorn Popper

Do you love popcorn? I adore popcorn. I could eat popcorn at every meal every day and not tire of it for months!

Years ago we gave up microwave popcorn when I decided some weird chemicals in it would give us cancer. I have no idea if that's really true, but it was a risk I wasn't willing to take. We started popping our own corn on the stove. It was not very difficult and made much more delicious popcorn.

Then, our "popcorn pan" died. We replaced it with a couple of slightly different pans that we felt met our family needs a bit better - slightly larger, not non-stick, cast-iron, etc, but none of them made good popcorn. Horror!

For a few months, we suffered, until we had enough in Amazon gift certificates to buy the Wabash Valley Farms 25008 Whirley-Pop Stovetop Popcorn Popper. This pan is awesome! At first, I wondered if it was worthwhile to buy a pan that essentially only did one thing - make popcorn. We make a lot of popcorn, though, and Kansas Dad convinced me it would be ok. I am so very glad!

I must admit, I haven't yet made popcorn in this pan. Kansas Dad has made all our popcorn. He's a gourmet popcorn chef, but I've watched him use the Whirley-Pop and I think anyone could do it (including me). Instructions are included and you definitely should follow them, including seasoning the pan before your first batch. If you follow the instructions, you will be astounded at the perfect batch of popcorn every time. (Be sure to shake the pan a little as you spin the kernels to move them to the center of the pan.)

Hardly any kernels are left unpopped (and we have a bunch of the cheap stuff; hopefully next year we'll be able to grow our own again). They never burn. What more could you ask?

The pan is very easy to clean. It is thin, but I think with a little care it should last a long time.

Abandon microwave popcorn and make your own with the Whirley-Pop!

I promise - no one gave me anything for this review. I love my popcorn and I really love it when it's well-popped and at its most delicious.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Big Cities Don't Have All the Perks

Our annual summer reading program concert was yesterday. This year, our amazing librarian found a harpist willing to drive long hours with his harp to entertain and teach a small group of children and townsfolk. After the concert, he invited all the children to take a turn playing his harp.

I think I was more impressed than the children, but they just don't know how extraordinary the morning was.

I said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again, I'd stake our summer reading program against any big city one.

Special thanks to our teacher, who took this great picture of First Son.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Love Is Peace, Quiet and Cleanliness

A few days ago, Kansas Dad sent me out the door with no kids. None. Not even one.

I ran a couple of errands and then went to a coffee shop where I read in peace and quiet for over two hours. It was lovely!

When I came home, Kansas Dad and the kids had made a loaf of bread, washed the dishes, swept, mopped, done two loads of laundry (washed, dried, folded and put away), cleaned the living room, vaccuumed, and tightened the cords around the TV so Second Son wouldn't pull or chew on them. Second Son had napped for two hours and First Son had a few lessons.

And then...Kansas Dad made dinner.

Not too shabby for a dad who also built a shed last weekend.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Celebrating Pentecost: Decisions, Decisions

Should we make Pentecost Sundaes or Holy Spirit Ice Cream Balls?

They both involve ice cream, which always makes feasts in June better. So hard to decide...I'm leaning toward the sundaes, only because we wouldn't have to buy very much to make them. I'd need sugar cubes and liquor for the flaming ice cream balls.

And ice cream. That stuff is too dangerous to keep in the house.

Stormy Night

Those of you watching the news might have seen some strong storms and (maybe?) tornadoes going through Kansas last night.

I was going to write a real post for today, but since we keep losing power, I think I'll just say that as of 9:00 pm local time on Thursday night we were just fine and finally getting the rain Kansas Dad wanted. As always, please keep those facing severe weather in your prayers. If you can spare the time, you could pray our new shed doesn't blow away before Kansas Dad secures it a bit more.

Also, Kansas Dad is planning to take my laptop in tomorrow. The battery doesn't work right. Once it's fixed, I should be able to tackle our pictures in a more reasonably time and maybe even get some of them on the blog!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Book Review: Understood Betsy

Understood Betsy
Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield

This book is a delight. I'm only sorry I did not read it myself as a young girl. I am definitely going to read it to the children, but will probably wait until the girls are a little bit older and ready to enjoy it.

Elizabeth Ann has been raised by aunts to be self-doubting, fearful and fretful. Her aunts love her, oh yes! But Aunt Frances has, perhaps unintentionally, convinced her she has all the same fears, misgivings and struggles she herself has. Elizabeth Ann has never thought for herself or done anything for herself.

Then, fatefully, her great-aunt becomes very ill and must go away. Elizabeth Ann is sent to live on a Vermont farm with Uncle Henry, Aunt Abigail and Cousin Ann. There, she is given tasks, responsibilities and discovers there is much more to herself and the world than she ever imagined.

She begins to think:
It is possible that what stirred inside her head at that moment was her brain, waking up. She was nine years old, and she was in the third A grade at school, but that was the first time she had ever had a whole thought of her very own...Somebody had always been explaining things to Elizabeth Ann so industriously that she had never found out a single thing for herself before.
She begins to discern her place in history:
To tell the honest truth, although she had passed a very good examination in the little book on American history they had studied in school, Elizabeth Ann had never to that moment had any notion that there ever had been really and truly any Declaration of Independence at all. It had been like the ounce, living exclusively inside her schoolbooks for little girls to be examined about. And now here Aunt Abigail, talking about a butter-pat, had brought it to life!
Her new school, a one-room schoolhouse, allows the teacher to address her education in a startling (and effective) way:
In the big brick schoolhouse nobody ever went into another grade except at the beginning of a new year, after you'd passed a lot of examinations. She had not known that anybody could do anything else. the idea that everybody took a year to a grade, no matter what! was so fixed in her mind that she felt as though the teacher had said: "How would you like to stop being nine years old and be twelve instead! And don't you think Molly would be better be eight instead of six?
The matter was that never before had she known what she was doing in school. She had always thought she was there to pass from one grade to another, and she was ever so startled to get a little glimpse of the fact that she was there to learn how to read and write and cipher and generally use her mind, so she could take care of herself when she came to be grown up.
I read Understood Betsy for free on my Kindle. The irony of this comment by Aunt Abigail was not lost on me.
Sometimes it seems to me that every time a new piece of machinery comes into the door some of our wits fly out at the window!
After looking over my notes and highlights, I realized a great many of my quotes were also featured over at Afterthoughts. Brandy knows a good book when she reads one.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


So I started exercising again. This, I'm sure, is a good thing. I'm up to about 40-50 minutes a day. The thing is, that's 40-50 minutes I was using to read a book or blog or a million other things I like to do more than exercise. I kind of miss my time.

Of course I can't take it away from laundry or dishes or changing diapers.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sad Strawberries

Our strawberry harvest was very sad this year. Last year it was wonderful. This year, we've made one batch of strawberry jam, a double batch of lemon strawberry marmalade and one batch of strawberry sauce. I think we may be done.

Kansas Dad thinks the June-bearing strawberries were hit rather hard by the bitterly cold winter and the drought-like spring.

Our apple tree gave a huge batch of apples last year, most of which went to the chickens because they had the audacity to be ready to be picked the week Second Son was born while we were a bit busy. This year, it didn't even blossom!

I was too tired and pregnant last year to really enjoy canning. This year I'm ready and there seems little available to can. Anyone around Kansas have luck with strawberries? Or anything else? I have an awful lot of pectin and jars I'd like to use!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Listening and Loving It

I was careful during the school year to keep us supplied with audio books from the library to play in the van. We have nearly an hour in the van just about every time we go anywhere, so we had lots of time to fill. On our way to and from choir, we always listened to our composer CD, but we usually had at least one other trip to town each week.

My children have been disinterested in listening to me read long books. They suffered through The First Four Years (Little House) (because it wasn't available on audio book and they asked me to read it), but they find it difficult to concentrate when it's just me reading long selections. (Hopefully First Son is ready for more of that next year as I think we're increasing our reading next year.) In the van, though, they are confined to their seats and can gaze calmly out the window while listening to someone much better than I perform a story.  I've tried audio books at home, but find the children are easily distracted and spend so much time making noise themselves that they have not listened to the story at all. So the van it is.

Here's our list for first grade, including a few we took along on our Christmas vacation:
  • By the Shores of Silver Lake (Little House) by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • The Long Winter (Little House) by Laura Ingalls Wilder - You would never believe how interesting this book is, given that nearly nothing happens beyond darkness, wind and hunger. If you ever find yourself struggling to feel grateful for heat and enough food, spend a little time with this book.
  • Little Town on the Prairie (Little House) by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • These Happy Golden Years (Little House) by Laura Ingalls Wilder - I think this is my favorite Little House books - everything seems so calm and pleasant.
  • Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary
  • Henry and Beezus by Beverly Cleary
  • Henry and Ribsy by Beverly Cleary
  • Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney - Kansas Dad and I didn't enjoy this book very much, but the children liked it.
  • How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell - First Son thought this book was hilarious, but I wish I had waited a while to share it with the children. It had been too long since I'd read it, so I didn't remember it properly. There's a bit more antagonism between the friends than I would like my seven and four year olds to hear. They didn't seem to imitate it, though.
  • Now We Are Six by A. A. Milne - I had been reading these poems at home to the children's delight, but they loved listening to a professional recite them even more. Even Second Daughter started reciting them during her games. Despite the popularity of the title, I had been unprepared for how wonderful the poems are. Mr. Milne knew what it was to be a young child.
  • Green Eggs and Ham and Other Servings of Dr. Seuss by Dr. Seuss - Frankly, I thought many of the Dr. Seuss poems lose something without the book
  • .Rascal by Sterling North - Kansas Dad and I enjoyed this book tremendously. We often stopped to entreat First Son not to follow in Sterling's footsteps, but much of the tale is idyllic. Please be sure to share this tale with your young boys!
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett - I was hesitant to listen to this with the children at first. I wasn't sure First Son would be interested enough in a young girl from India and her sickly cousin. He seemed to enjoy it very much and I realized again how much I love this story. I'd forgotten quite how much "magic" is mentioned and invoked, but the "magic" they speak of is quite easily explained as God's intervention. It is a lovely story of sunshine, bright thoughts, redemption and relationships.
Though I love reading "older" books with my children, please remember to discuss how people of different races and cultures are portrayed, discussed and treated in them. In fact, that's not a bad idea for all books, even with young children. We found this with parts of the Little House books and a bit in The Secret Garden.

I find myself excited for our drives, knowing we will be able to listen to the next part of our story. I highly recommend finding good audio books to make driving more enjoyable for everyone.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Thursday, June 2, 2011

My Small Successes XLII

1. We made our first batches of strawberry jam! So far we have four pints of strawberry jam and seven pints of strawberry lemon marmalade. The harvest is later than last year, but hopefully we'll still have a good one. Last year's was great, but I was too tired to can as much as I had liked. I tried a new recipe for pickled watermelon rinds, too, just because we had them. Kansas Dad is outside picking strawberries today so hopefully we'll have some strawberry sauce soon! (We also had strawberry smoothies for breakfast. Yum!)

2. We ordered a Wii Fit Plus with Balance Board. So far I've managed at least 30 minutes of exercise on all but one day. (That's 12 of the last 13 days. I didn't exercise on my birthday, more because I was worried about getting four adults and four kids to Mass on time than because it was my birthday.) I haven't noticed a difference in tone, strength, size or weight yet, but these things take time, right? I have been sore, so something must be happening. At the very least, I haven't exercised this much since I was playing basketball in high school.

3. I bought something for myself just because. I've wanted a Kindle for a long time but have never wanted to spend the money on something I so obviously didn't need. I had just enough birthday money for one, though, and my parents were encouraging me to order it. After consulting with Kansas Dad, I did. It should arrive tomorrow. I'm posting it as a success because it's the first time in (probably) years I haven't spent my birthday money on something for the kids, something for the kitchen or something for our homeschool. Not that I don't like spending money on those things, but Kansas Dad thought I was due to buy something for me. Now I'll be downloading all those classics I haven't read that are available for free. (Recommendations welcome.)

Head over to Chocolate for Your Brain for more Small Successes.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Homeschool Review: Connecting with History Volume 1

An updated version of this review was posted in August 2012.

I spent a long time last year searching for a history program. I wanted something cyclical, so we could start with creation in first grade and come back to it again in a few years. I wasn't sure I wanted something specifically Catholic, but that's what I found.

Connecting with History is a Catholic history program based on the classical model. Families can study history on a four year cycle, eventually. Volumes 1 and 2 are available in their entirety. Volume 3 is available as a BETA version. Volume 4 should be available in 2012. In each volume, reading lists are provided for four levels: Beginner (1-3), Grammar (4-6), Logic (7-9) and Rhetoric (10-12). There are recommendations in a few of the units for combining students at different levels for some of the books.

The goal is to "connect" the student with history. You can see the six steps of the CONNECT method on the St. George Catholic Bookstore website. Each unit includes a summary, list of timeline cards, vocabulary, essay and research ideas, creative writing ideas, ideas of hands-on projects, maps from Blackline Maps of World History, and memory and copy work suggestions.

In Volume 1, we studied Old Testament history and Ancient cultures. The main textbook is a children's Bible along with engaging nonfiction books. Every unit also includes literature suggestions of which they recommend you select at least one to read with the children.

Learning to be archaeologists
We loved almost every single book suggested in the units. One of my favorites was Old Testament Days, which is a wonderful book full of not only lots of activities that really help kids understand what life was like for the people in the Old Testament, but also short pieces that expand geographical, political and religious knowledge for kids. (Me, too.) Another one the children really enjoyed was Famous Figures of Ancient Times. It's a good thing two of each figure are included in the book. First Son and First Daughter both loved putting all the figures together. First Daughter could do most of them herself (at four years old).

I would have liked to do more culminating activities for each unit. Those were some of the things I cut from our schedule. Volume 1 provides only a few examples and suggestions for writing assignments and big projects, but I've glanced through Volume 2 and they've really expanded that section for each unit.

I think, too, that we read far too many of the literature selections. They were all excellent, but we had trouble finishing our history in a timely manner. (In fact, we have another week or so of history readings. I want to make sure to finish Volume 1 before we start Volume 2 in the fall.) I really hope to try to rein myself in a little more next year!

Making a salt dough map of the Promised Land
I started out with American history twice a week and Ancient history twice a week. After a few months, it was obvious what I'd selected for American history was not pleasing us. I cut that out and spread our Ancient history out over four days. Not only did we enjoy the readings more, it helped to shortened our history readings, narrations and mapwork short, which made First Son much happier. Next year I'm adding American history back in, so we'll have to see how it works out.

Volume 1 is heavily focused on Western history. It's the one aspect of the program I did not like. I supplemented a little myself with some Asian history this year. From the booklists, it looks like they are addressing those areas more in future volumes.

I was very pleased with our history and have already ordered Volume 2 (and most of the books!) to use next year.

This review is my own opinion. I did not receive anything in exchange for it. If, however, you choose to order something from St. George Catholic Books and Gifts for the first time, please consider putting my (real) name in the comments box when you check out. You can read more about their referral program here.