Friday, August 26, 2011

Homeschool Journal

In my life this week (actually the past 2 weeks)...
In general, the past 2 weeks have been going pretty well. I've been going, going, going, and my brain is forced to shut down by 8:00 p.m. every night (or usually sooner than that!). I wish I could make myself blog after the kids go to bed, but I can't summon the energy. I want to start blogging more, though, because it's good accountability for me. I like to go back to see what we've worked on and accomplished.

In our homeschool the past 2 weeks...
We got back into full-time school mode. We didn't take a full vacation from schooling this summer, although we did cut way back. Tornado worked part way through a Saxon Math book and practiced reading aloud to me. He also worked on many other workbooks just because he enjoys doing that.

With Dash, we focused on reading aloud and his Flash Kids Sight Words workbook, which he actually finished today. The kids also did lessons almost daily on Time4Learning. We really think a lot of this online program (which costs us about $15 per child, although it looks like it has gone up in price a little). It provides a lot of instruction for the boys who love being on the computer. Many times the kids will repeat back something to me, and I'll ask WHERE they learned that because I didn't remember teaching it to them. They'll tell me it was on Time4Learning.

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share...
This isn't tips or advice. I'm just going to share what we are doing this school year. Some of the curriculum was chosen by their homeschool co-op, where they are taking classes and I am teaching. So far, I'm happy with everything we're doing.

Tornado, my 11 year old: From co-op: Abeka American History, Apologia Science: Flying Creatures, TouchMath, Barton Reading & Spelling, and Abeka Phonics & Spelling/Poetry. He is also taking p.e. and thinking skills classes at our co-op (changing to art and Spanish next semester). In addition at home: MindWare Analogy Challenges, Saxon Math, Spectrum Grade 4 Language Arts, Making Sense of Your Senses, and Time4Learning.

Dash, my 6 year old: From co-op: Saxon Math and Abeka Phonics & Spelling/Poetry. His other co-op classes include: Spanish, thinking skills, p.e., math club, storytime, and art. In addition at home: Time4Learning, Let's Learn How to Read and Understand, and Abeka Science. He also started taking piano lessons two weeks ago.

Sissy will be attending preschool full time this year! Ah! I'll miss my sweet little girl (who declared yesterday, "I just love you so much; I don't want to go downstairs without you," when I told her to go on down 5 minutes ahead of me. She is my literal shadow and the narrator of our lives. We definitely don't want her to be away everyday, BUT she is going to have the best time. It's going to be so good for her, and I will be able to focus on the boys' education. (I've warned her that she's going to have to expect lots of Mommy cuddle time when she gets home every afternoon.)

My favorite thing this week...
There were just some special moments I experienced at homeschool co-op this week. Moments when I was able to take a deep breath and sigh with relief and happiness.

A special party we had with the kids. I'll try to post pictures this weekend.

I enjoyed talking to an old friend from college (who was a groomsman in our wedding) on the phone. That rarely happens. He has been going through the same experience I did nine years ago (thyroid cancer). We were also able to talk about a situation we have in common with our oldest sons. It was nice to converse with someone who not only knew Ryan and me "back then," but who can also relate to us now.

Tornado has been HILARIOUS lately. He has been cracking us up. He's been (unintentionally, I think) throwing around little figures of speech or funny slang in normal conversation. I laugh so hard.

Places we're going and people we're seeing...
This weekend we hope to go swimming at least once since there aren't going to be too many more opportunities this year.

I'm having a terrible care of the travel bug lately. Must go on trip soon.

We actually went to a flea market this week. This was Tornado's special treat for doing so well in school. Seriously, it's what he wanted to do more than anything.

Questions/thoughts I have:
I'm looking around for the best typing instruction/program for my 11 year old who has certain fine motor issues/handwriting issues. Does anyone have any recommendations? Or maybe this is too soon for him. I don't know.

I've also considered ordering one of the Brain Therapy type computer programs (like Brain Builder) for him. Anyone have any thoughts or knowledge on these?

I'm grateful for...(#376-380 on my Gratitude List)
good news I received this week, my husband helping to keep things running around here, the special situation we have with our wonderful homeschool co-op, how close (!!!) the school is to our house, and our dogs. (Seriously, because one of them has been a little annoying lately. But THEN...the other night, Ghetti was slumped over on their bed next to Roni. Ryan and I were watching t.v. on the couch in the dark, so I could barely see them. I asked, "Is she okay?" He got up to check on her, and she wasn't moving. He freaked out, and I jumped up and freaked out. He shook her with his hand, and FINALLY she moved. We think she was just in such a deep sleep. Regardless, we cuddled with them for the rest of the evening. FREAKED us out.)

A photo, video, link, or quote to share...

First day of homeschool co-op last week! The boys were both ready to go. And little Orca attended with Tornado to keep him company.

Our first full day back with our Workbox System was the next day (and as you can see they are still wearing the same shirts). We will do two days workboxes, two days homeschool co-op, plus Fridays for catch-up (Tornado will be having lots of homework this year.) and cleaning. I was so happy when I woke up to find the boys were already busy working through their drawers! (Here, Tornado had to complete certain Time4Learning lessons as one of his assignments.)

Bed head and all.

Linkin' Up:

Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers: Weekly Wrap-Up

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Some of Our Days Lately

One Day Two Weeks Ago
My sister and her kids came to stay with my parents for the week. She is still getting back into the swings of things after their wreck, and it was great for her to relax at "home" for awhile. And we loved, as always, spending time with them. One day we went to the River Market in downtown Little Rock.

The kids played in the splash fountain nearby at Peabody Park.

Sunday, August 14
We headed up to Branson to celebrate my Grandpa's 91st birthday party. The kids all gathered around their great-grandfather while we sang and he blew out the candles.

hug from Sis

These girls were inseparable all day. They are like sisters - they love each other dearly but squabble a lot, too.

Older Cousin G was very sweet about playing with and entertaining the little girls all day.

These two guys - Dash and Cousin O were inseparable all day, as well.

I'm glad that they are friends. The times we spend at my brother's house are some of our most enjoyable times we ever have.

Uncle Chuck, reading to the biggest ham in our family

Thursday, August 18
This was the first full week of official homeschooling for us this year, complete with our two days at our homeschool co-op. Sissy won't be attending full time this year, as she will begin another preschool next week. But she had fun going with me today since I am teaching K-4 this year.

her sun

This afternoon we finally made it to the Smurfs movie. Dash made the sweet decision on his own to wear his Smurf t-shirt.

Friday, August 19
When I came up to tuck the boys into bed, I found them cuddled together in the same chair in their room. I always love seeing them like this.

Sunday, August 21
Today we spent the day in Hot Springs. Super fun family day. Our primary reason for the 1 hour/15 minute trip was to check out the fairly new vegan restaurant. We walked away pleased!

Tornado always wants me to take silly pictures of him, and he really liked this pose. I would usually choose the picture of him smiling sweetly with his "Brownie Madness," but with respect to Tornado's favorite type of photo, I give you this one instead.

We walked around downtown for a little while, and the boys couldn't pass by the shop with the giant King Kong-like ape.

We also walked by one of the hot spring outlets and walked up the trail that looks over the city for awhile. This water is so hot that you can't leave your finger in it for more than a second.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Upon Returning From Vacation

Monday, July 25
Sissy had her first day of Cinderella ballet camp this week. Obviously, she loves it. She loves to do nothing more than dance. And add it to my list of failures as a mother: I forgot to take her on her 2nd day. Just forgot.

Tuesday, July 26
Dash had his second-to-the-last day of hip-hop class tonight. The kid loves to "break dance" and do the Irish Jig, etc. He asks regularly to take tap dancing lessons - or something similar. So we thought that "hip-hop" might be a good choice for him. His earnestness during class is adorable.

Maybe Wednesday, July 27
Sissy was THRILLED with the results of taking her hair out of her braids today.

One Day This Week, Maybe Thursday or Friday?
The kids walked around outside with their rainboots and umbrellas today - for quite awhile. It was so muggy and humid outside, my camera immediately fogged up when I took it outside, hence the fogginess.

Saturday, July 30
The Lego tower Dash has been working on the past couple of days finally reached the ceiling.

Sunday, July 31
Sissy requested that she and I "make something together." I think about how often my oldest child and I cooked together; he sat on the counter with me almost every time I cooked for almost five years. And how infrequent it is now that one child gets to do that with me alone. (There are usually two others begging to be involved, as well.) Therefore, she and I baked chocolate chip cookies. And she got to lick the beater all by herself.

Googie and Papaw came over to visit. Papaw brought little wooden airplanes over for the boys and went outside with them to play.

Monday, August 1
They had a morning of "making potions." Ingredients: Kool-Aid packets, hotel lotions/shampoos, etc., water, baking soda, and vinegar. They also stirred around and dissolved some of those biodegradable packing peanuts.

This is what all of their potions pretty much looked like.

I also finally blew up the kid pool I had bought a couple of weeks ago. I even got in it with them because it's actually pretty deep. I can sit in it with the water up to my chest. The only bad thing about such depth is I wouldn't let them play in it alone outside, and I never want to stay outside as long as they do. But they played in it two different times today before they dished out all of the water for the plants.

Tuesday, August 2
This is Dash's "big thing" lately. So far, it hasn't gotten old for him to do it repeatedly to us - and for anyone who comes over. Another one of his "big things" lately: "Watch how long I can hold my breath."

Today, Dash decided he wanted to play "department store." So all on his own, he started carrying things out of the kitchen up to his room. This is what he organized on his chair. (Unfortunately, we did find an Earth Balance in his room the next day - or so - that had to be tossed out.)

And he took some of his clothes out of his closet and displayed them around the room.

He set up his cash register, and Sissy and I "shopped."

Wednesday, August 3
No pictures today, but we went to Little Rock for Tornado's dentist appointment. We had to wait for an hour and a half, which was very tedious. Thankfully, they had cartoons in the waiting room. Next, we bought a few essentials, including supper to eat in the car at Whole Foods, then headed to Wild River Country, where we met Daddy. We didn't get there until 5:30, but it was still so muggy and hot, I was huffing and puffing by the time we made it up the hill and all of the steps. I thought I was going to have a panic attack because the air going through my nose to breathe was so hot, it felt like no air was going in. When you stay inside everyday, you forget how hot it is outside. We cooled off as soon as we started playing in the water, though, and we had a really nice time.

One Day Soon After
All of the kids' summer activities ended, and it was pretty nice to look forward to another couple of weeks free before school starts. This ample free time lended itself to Mommy staying in bed until 8:30-9 every morning. What a life!

Well, one morning, apparently the boys watched Home Alone, which was showing on directv. I'm not upset by this, but I wouldn't have let them watch it, had they asked. (Bad language, etc.) This has prompted us to hide the Netflix remote before we go to bed at night and to REMIND them that they are only allowed to watch the pre-selected DVRed shows without permission.) Anyway, they thought it was HILARIOUS, I guess. The rest of the day, Dash kept setting up booby traps. Such as the one above. He thought we might walk into the office, step onto these toys and slip. His intentions, of course, were completely humor-based, never assuming anyone would get hurt. I'm sure he was imagining it in a very over-the-top, slapstick way. He had quite an elaborate one set up in the living room, but I didn't get a picture of that one. Of course, I had to pretend like I was falling down, complete with shrieking, more than once that day. He would just CACKLE. He loved it.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Perdido Key, Florida

We weren't planning on taking a vacation this summer. Our two youngest children's car-riding skills had worn us out, so instead I booked July with plenty of camps and classes to keep the kids busy. But then my family decided they were all going to Florida (specifically Perdido Key, our typical beach destination as a family) together. Of course, I didn't want to miss out! Although they all headed down on Saturday, we didn't head out until Tuesday night after a couple of the kids' already paid-for activities were completed. We planned on leaving at 6, as soon as Dash's class was over. However, it was more like 8:30 when we were on our way.

Our plan was for Ryan to drive until he got tired - probably around midnight, then find a hotel and finish the rest of the 10 hour drive the next day. We told my family to expect us around 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday.

Except I'd barely peek an eye open around 1 a.m., 2 a.m., etc. to discover Ryan was still driving. We'd talk a little, he'd assure me he was wide awake, then I'd snooze a little more while he got back to the audiobooks he was captivated with (the John Carter from Mars series). When I peeked at the dashboard clock at 3:30 p.m., I smiled over at him, knowing, "That stinker is going to drive the whole way!" It really was pretty nice with the kids sleeping soundly in the back.

We made it to the Pensacola area around 6:45, just in time for the kids to wake up and make a gas station/restroom stop. They were so excited, obviously, to discover the change in plans. We didn't know exactly what to do, though, because we couldn't check into our condo until later that day. And we didn't want to wake up my family by calling. We found a public parking spot near (but actually not that near) my family's condo, changed into our bathing suits in the car, and walked down the beach.

Tornado, above, made about 10 of these stops during our walk. All he ever really wants to do at the ocean is play in the sand. We'd have to keep ushering him on down the beach, or he would have found a spot to plop down and stayed there all day.

I told him the story of going to the beach when he was really little. The whole way he chanted, "Go beach! Beach!" We felt terrible when we arrived after dark. So I decided to walk down to the ocean with him, anyway, to reward his patience/excitement. We walked off the boardwalk, and he plopped right down in the sand. I tried to tell him we weren't really at the beach/ocean yet, and we should keep walking. But he felt sand, and he was content.

Dash, on the other hand, wasted no time jumping headfirst into the waves. We had kind of told them we weren't going to get wet yet in case we were going to go inside the condo. And it wasn't really that warm out yet. That kid.

I finally texted my Mom around 7:30 a.m. and told them we were getting ready to leave our hotel and get on the road soon, etc. She asked where we were. I told her to look out her balcony. This is part of the crew greeting us from their 14th floor room.

My husband still looks HOT after spending a whole night driving!

The 4 bedroom condo my family stayed in - Indigo - was very nice, and it had the best pools of any place we've ever stayed in Florida. We had gotten a 2 bedroom condo at Caribbean East, which was just a couple of buildings away - an easy walk or drive over to theirs. Being the Super 8/Econo Lodge-staying people that we are, we felt majorly extravagant with such accommodations and space.

We got to spend all day Wednesday through check out on Saturday morning. Here are some of the pictures of our fun time with our family of 18:

We didn't even plan the girls' coordinating bathing suits.

We loved the shallow end of the pool for the kids.

Aunt Tracy

Cousin C



Cousin G

Tornado was special buddies this week with his 2 year old boy cousins. They liked to slide down the little sandy hills over and over again.

Cousin P

These two (Dash and Cousin O) are great pals and very brave in the water together.

Daddy and Dash, riding the waves in. I think there is no better vacation for my 6 year old; he would live at the beach if he could. He made great improvements in his swimming abilities this week. On the way home, he asked if we could go to Wild River Country (our local water park) the next day.

Cousin R

last night on the beach pictures

my kids with Papaw

My birthday happened this week. We enjoyed a great meal together in my family's condo, complete with chocolate mousse pies. (As usual, I wrote about the food on our trip on my other blog.) I was gifted with sweet, wonderful presents, and my birthday wish of playing Catch Phrase with the adults (after the kids went to sleep) was fulfilled.

We wished we could stay a few more days. Check-out time seemed to come too quickly.

Though it isn't entirely my story to becomes my story as it involves 4 of my most important people. Not too far into our drive home, my mom called (hysterical) because my sister Cary (driving her family) was in a wreck. Their tire blew, and control was lost. They flipped several times, across both lanes of traffic, the median, and both lanes of oncoming traffic, onto the far opposite shoulder. It was the understanding that Cary and the kids were okay, but Andy (my brother-in-law) was bleeding from the head and would be taken by ambulance to the ER. As the other 3 cars in our caravan, which were all separated by 1-4 hours each, became determined to make it to the hospital in Mississippi, apparently all four of them were taken in 2 different ambulances. I sort of sat in a trance in the car, no longer able to read my books...because by then, who cares about the four seasons of marriage or Shania Twain's career in music when my little sister, her partner in life, and these two 3 ft. tall chunks of my heart are scared/injured/in danger. It made us all just SICK, thinking about them rolling in their car - and what COULD have happened.

This was sort of the scene when we finally made it to the hospital. Over ten days later, my (very pretty when not experiencing a concussion while being strapped to a backboard) sister still isn't feeling back to normal. Her corneas were scratched, she's sore, and she's reeling from the after-effects of her concussion. (If you haven't read any of her thoughts about it, here are some.)

My brother-in-law (also very handsome when his face isn't scraped up and smooshed together by this headdress) is feeling better, but his head will not be back to normal for awhile. (He was kind of scalped.)

This was one of those moments when we were faced with the reality of how fragile and fleeting our earth lives are. Because it was one of those accidents when onlookers and doctors called it a miracle that the outcome wasn't worse. I can't say that it makes me live in fear or anything. But I do want my hug to Ryan when he gets home from his long drive (in rush hour traffic on the interstate) to linger a little bit longer now. Ya know?


I'm GRATEFUL today that #366 - I have so many people in my life to love, #367 - my niece and nephew are young enough to forget about their experience in this wreck, #368 - my sister and Andy were able to walk out of the ER on their own, #369 - there are such a thing as beaches and the ocean, #370 - Ryan has vacation days, #371 - Ryan's job allows us to afford vacations, #372 - my parents want to spend beach vacations with their family, #373 - we had a fun evening at Wild River Country last night, #374 - there are a couple of weeks left of summer vacation, and #375 - there are 4 year old and 6 year old giggles taking place right now in and out of my bedcovers.