Friday, August 26, 2011

Short and Sweet - Week in Review

Do you ever notice that time goes faster on some days than others, whether you are having a ball . . . or not? This week was full of really fast days, almost as if the second hand was ticking at double speed.  It was a good week though.

Monday we had our first session of Classical Conversations for the school year. The kids have not looked forward to this in any way since last year, but since Mom knows better, we planned to do it again regardless. My daughter is in my class and my son has a new tutor this time. After our four hours together, the kids had changed their tunes and thankfully are very excited about the rest of the year. We covered history, science, math, Bible, Latin, geography, English grammar, drawing, public speaking -- and socialization -- so we came home and played for the rest of the afternoon.

On Tuesday Charlie woke up like this.
He was so offended that I dared suggest we do a reading lesson when I had no homemade chocolate cupcakes in the house. We did some of our schoolwork early and headed to the doctor for the annual well-child visit for both kids. We did not touch ANYTHING while at the doctor's office and ate an extra gummy vitamin, just in case. Afterward, we met Daddy for cheese pizza at Costco and then headed to a friend's house to play a while. Leftover schoolwork was finished before dinner. After dinner I moved my workspace to a more centrally located spot in the house. It's the best thing I did all week.

On Wednesday morning, while his sister and daddy were still asleep, Charlie helped me make those chocolate cupcakes.

We had two successes for Wednesday. Number One: We figured out if I write all of Miriam's reading lesson words on a dry erase board, we have a much better, more focused lesson. And Number Two: We had friends over and the little girls didn't fight.  In fact, we didn't see them for four hours, save the five minutes they came downstairs to gobble up freshly iced cupcakes and yummy sugar-sprinkled cookies.  I will not mention the part about how my daughter snuck a glass of milk upstairs on purpose and then accidentally spilled it on the carpet. 

Thursday brought us the new behavior chart, which we found free here at Heart of Wisdom. It is wonderful. All I have to say is "go move your clip to yellow" and boy, do they ever shape up.
For my own heart training, I posted this abiding mom chart on the fridge to gently remind myself how to be . . . as opposed to how to mother, how to act, how to do.
(find one to print for yourself here)
And Friday we started our next big project, "Operation Awesome Playroom." The kids are so excited that we are turning our guest room into a playroom that they have camped there for the last two nights. They are hoping I will make the transformation while they sleep, but they are mistaken this time. We "did school" all morning and had a wonderful time learning about Maine. Did you know that Maine produces more toothpicks than any other state? One hundred million a day to be exact.  Miriam really gets a thrill out of showing little brother the things she has learned. 

Tonight we went to a picnic at a lovely park with our Classical Conversations group. All of the other children were dressed in play clothes, but mine showed up all dolled up (their choice). Somehow they had it in their heads this was a formal occasion.   I took the opportunity to snap a couple of cute photos, of course.

I feel like I blinked and this wonderful week is gone.   But there is grace and hope in tomorrow and I will savor it!

I'm linking up with the Weird, Unsocialied Homeschoolers Weekly Wrap Up!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Crispy, Cheesy Waffles

This recipe makes enough for my family of four, but it is easily doubled, tripled . . . quadrupled? ;)

Crispy, Cheesy Waffles
Prepare the Sour Milk:
2 T. apple cider vinegar plus enough milk to make 2 cups (let this sit for 5 minutes)

Combine Dry Ingredients:
1/2 cups flour (We have a grain mill and love the taste of freshly ground flour the best!  You can use whatever flour you have on hand. Substituting 1/2 c. of cornmeal is a delicious twist.)
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1 1/4 t. baking powder

Combine Wet Ingredients
2 c. sour milk or buttermilk
1/4 cup oil or butter
2 eggs

Combine wet and dry ingredients (just enough and not too much!) until most of the lumps are gone.

Butter waffle iron.  Pour enough batter to fill your waffle iron about 2/3 full and sprinkle cheddar cheese or fiesta cheese blend on top. We use a Belgian waffle maker for this and it yields a very crispy, fluffy waffle.  When the waffle is ready, place it on a cooling rack for a few seconds to keep it from getting soggy.  You do not need a fork for this.  Just pick it up and eat it with your hands. I eat mine right off the cooling rack . . .

If cheese is not your thing, omit it and throw some butter and pure maple syrup on your plate.  And use a fork, please.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Never An Extra Ordinary Day

Every day is a little different at the Sprout Schoolhouse but let me tell you first about the similarities. 
1.  We always get out of bed.
2.  We always eat breakfast.

Other that these two items, nothing is ever the same.  Some might consider this unwholesome, loosey-goosey or downright bad for the children.  But we don't - variety is the spice of life! We have busted out of the "bottoms in chairs for X amount of hours" paradigm that public, and many private, schools embrace.  We don't want our children to grow up to be content to sit at a desk all day . . . we want them to discover a passion for living that grows outside of the proverbial box.

Here's the thing. My husband owns his own business and he is free to work whatever 70 hours a week he wants . . . it's very flexible.  Sometimes he works late and sleeps in.  Other times he goes in early and comes home early.  Then there are the days he takes off spontaneously and we go to an amusement park or something else equally fun. And then there are the days when he goes in early and keeps working until way past everyone's bedtime.  Like tonight, for example.

So, when Daddy is home, we hang out with him.  We try to do what he wants to do and we bask in the glow of the whole family being together. 

I'll tell you what my ideal "school day" is like and then I'll tell you what really happens.  Ideally, we wake up at 7am.  I, already showered, dressed and had my quiet time before the rest of the family, have my coffee that I set up the night before while the children get dressed, brush their teeth and come downstairs to a nice breakfast of cold cereal and fresh fruits.  We all eat together as a family and have a time of devotional and perhaps listen to some praise music to start our day.  Daddy goes out the door for work and the kids run out to the front porch to wave and yell their goodbyes to him.  The kids come inside and we start our schoolwork.  First we pray for the day and mark the calendar.  The kids check their first workboxes and find a fun activity inside, an activity I have carefully and lovingly prepared the week night before. We move on to a reading lesson, then math.  Another workbox with something fun inside. A craft or puzzle, perhaps.  While one child is working with me, the other one quietly works alone. Three hours later, we are finished and eat a delicious homemade lunch.  School is over for the day and we can focus on chores, fun and activities outside the house.  The children are in bed by 7:30 and the adults by 9:30, gearing up for another full day.

And now here is what really happens.  Since we (the adults) stayed up until midnight-thirty last night, we are tired.  A small boy wakes me up by poking me in the forehead repeatedly and then pushes my glasses onto my face all haphazard-like while pulling my arms out of bed and saying, "Mommy, it's morning time.  Get up.  I need to get downstairs so I can have the first waffle." 

Waffle?  Don't you mean corn flakes? 

"Mommy, please make me a waffle.  You promised."  Pouty lips turned into a square.

I trudge downstairs, trying not to fall as the little person is still pulling my arm to guide me where he needs me to go.  There's nothing he can make me do before I pee, so I head to the bathroom and forget to lock the door.  He follows me in and gives me a great big bear hug.  While I'm going. Thanks, little guy.

I've forgotten to set up the coffee maker the night before so I am fumbling around with that.  I check my email and get completely distracted.  Oh yeah, I was suppposed to be drinking coffee.  I pour myself a cup and down it.  Feeling better, starting to feel ready to take on the day, I go back to my distracting email and eventually notice that Charlie has been very quiet.  He is curled up on the big blue chair, wrapped in a blanket, petting the dog, completely naked.  His pajamas are under the coffee table.

I realize I need more coffee.

I fill my cup and start rearranging books in the school room.  Meanwhile, I forget to make waffles. And I don't hear my husband get up. He comes downstairs for his breakfast and I am just standing there with no food.

"Oh, good morning.  Uhhhhh.  Let me get you some eggs."  Daddy gets on his computer to check his distracting email.  I bring him his eggs and he asks me if I did anything different to them today.  "Why? Is there something wrong with them?"  "No. They just taste funny." 

"Mommy!  My waffles!"  Oh, sorry.  I tell him we can have waffles for lunch (I promise) and offer him some yogurt.

A familiar noise shouts out to me.  It is my daughter and she can't figure out how to get out of the bed.  I tell her to get up, get some clothes on and get downstairs because Daddy needs to get to work.  It is 9:30 after all.  She still can't figure out how to get herself out of bed, so I go up to help.  I offer her a dress.  "I don't like that one."  How about this one?  "It doesn't fit." How about this one? "It feels funny." But you liked it two days ago . . . Eventually she is dressed and I realized that I am very hungry.  Why didn't I make myself some eggs?  Everyone is dressed so we head downstairs in time to see Daddy before he heads to work.  He asks me if I have any lunch for him to take.  "Uhhhhh. Yes, I can give you a ham sandwich."  No, he would rather go out for lunch today.  We say our goodbyes. 

It is now 10:15.  Three hours of school plus 10:15am . . . that puts us at almost 1:30 to finish if we don't stop for lunch until we're through.  We can do it. 

We have a devotional and my kids tell me it is not as boring as they thought it would be. We pray for the day, that we will learn and love and glorify God in what we do. We dance around the kitchen to the CD from summer Vacation Bible School.  We check our calendar and read a couple of books.  I remember there are wet sheets to wash and go upstairs to take care of it.  I come back down to find the children playing with their rock collection.  They're getting along, so I don't interrupt. 

The phone rings and I get off course. Again, with the distracting email.

By now it is lunchtime so we eat. I notice a strong smell and decided we better work on the pile of brown and black spotted bananas waiting on the counter.  One kid peels some, cuts them and puts them in a bag in the freezer.  Both kids help make banana muffins.  They mash, measure, stir and watch the oven like little hawks so they can tell me when the muffins are perfect. 

Although we have just eaten lunch, we stuff ourselves with warm banana muffins.

We take turns with reading lessons and sort of behave.  Charlie climbs on the back of the couch and watches his sister intently.  He looks forward to being able to read all of those hard words like her . . . goats, sock, little . . .  She gets frustrated and pretends that she is suddenly incredibly nearsighted.  She can't read the words unless her nose is firmly affixed to the page.  I get frustrated and remind her that she wants to learn how to read. 

She finishes her lesson and we start on math.  They love math and are good at it, so this time is pleasant for all of us. Sometimes we ditch the textbook and play a fun game instead. 

We plan to do history and Latin today, but the kids are more interested in coming up with their own science experiments, so we go with that instead. I pull out my tidy planner and mark it up with all kind of changes. 

We take some time to sing our history songs, and Latin songs, and science songs.

I remember my rotting laundry from hours ago.  It still smells so I wash it again in our new-fangled low water washer.  I remind myself that it takes water to get clothes clean and that if I could go back in time, I would have kept my old washer.

I come downstairs and find the children snuggling on the couch, watching a cartoon.  I leave them there and do some chores.  They get bored and play outside.  They take turns spinning the composter and compete on the swings.  Who can swing the highest?  It's a tie.

My son, almost five, comes to me and wants me to hold him.  I gaze into his eyes for five minutes, taking in the wonder of who he is.  These days are truly precious.

I make dinner and we hop in the van to take some to Daddy.  He's in his busy season and can't take a long break to eat.  Covered in drywall mud and paint, he eats standing up and shows the kids how to put up bathroom tiles.  They can't wait to grow a little bigger so they can do it too.

It's 8:30 and we arrive back home, just in time to read books and get the kids in bed by 9:00.  One child's head hits the pillow and he is asleep.  The other child tells me she cannot sleep without one more story, one more stuffed animal, one more hug, one more kiss  . . .

I head downstairs to plan for tomorrow and relax and reflect on the day. 

I wonder if we did enough.

I remember that we covered some major areas . . . reading, math, Bible, memory work, play.

I remember that my children are each other's best friends and had time play together and love the family today.

I remember that my children love to learn and are able entertain themselves.  And that it's a vital skill.

I remember that I haven't taught my children how to stand in a line.  We'll get to that eventually . . .

I remember why we are doing this.

And I remember that I forgot to make those waffles.  (But I definitely don't remember to set up the coffee for tomorrow.)

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Girls-Only-All-Girls-No-Boys-Allowed Pink Poodle Birthday Party


Who Is Susan and Why Is She So Lazy?

I saw this awesome, amazing, brilliant idea for our markers and other coloring/art supplies on SeeJamieBlog and just had to make one for myself.  All you need to make one for yourself is a lazy susan, cute tins, glue, magnets and about 10 minutes.  Here is the tutorial and my inspiration for this project.  I found tins at Walmart for 97 cents a piece.  If you have banned Walmart from your life (Jeanine, I'm talking to you, haha!), then for goodness sakes, go to Target.  The lazy susan was laying around my school room, broken, and literally being lazy.  I fixed her up and put her to work!

We love this thing and my kids are totally inspired.  My four year old sat for three HOURS coloring yesterday.  It's a homeschool miracle. 
It is really fun to spin! The tins don't fly off because of the magnets!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Friday, August 12, 2011

2011-12 Daily Schedule

For these first two weeks, I have been handwriting our daily schedule in a pretty journal, but the more I wrote, the less pretty the journal became.  So late, late last night, I came up with this daily schedule and filled it out for the next two weeks.  Two days fit on one page and it includes a place to record our loop schedule, making the overall schedule almost effortless.

Now let's see if I can actually follow the schedule...that's the challenge for me! 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

How to Clean Your Room in 945 Simple Steps

Step 1. Make the bed.
Step 2. Pick up the toys.
Step 3. Pick up the clothes.
Steps 4-945:  Pick up the 942 tiny bits of styrofoam you and your sister threw around so you could have snow in August.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Monkey in the Middle - Skip Counting Game

There was a lot of giggling going on at our house this afternoon.

I finally caved and bought a parachute for my kids at home and my 6-7 year old apprentices at Classical Conversations.  We needed some fun to accompany our memory work for the year and this seems to do the trick, for my own kids anyway. Our co-op doesn't start for another two weeks but I have a feeling this game will be a hit there as well.

We called the game we played today "Monkey in the Middle."  All you need is a parachute, a monkey (or other stuffed animal) and your amazing memory. 

To play, put the monkey in the middle of the parachute have the children hold parachute's handles of the while they gently pop the monkey up and down while skip counting: 2,4,6,8,10,12 . . . 24 or 4,8,12,16,20,24 . . . 48.  If the monkey (or other animal) pops out of the parachute onto the floor or the kids make a mistake counting, they start over.  When they get to the last number in the set, they get a reward like a sticker or an m&m or whatever I have on hand that floats their little boats.

I plan to use this game for learning other lists like the US presidents, states & capitals and books of the Bible.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Our School Room On Its Best Behavior

Welcome to our School Room!
School happens all over the house, yard, town and state. 
But this is our school room on its best behavior. 
It gets trashed and rearranged on a regular basis.

The table is covered in maps, a handwriting chart and a hundred chart,
all covered with a clear plastic table cloth
so the kids can use dry erase markers to trace. 
Washable paint comes off in a snap as well.

Glue? Check. Markers? Check. Crayons? Check. Pom pom balls? Check. Popsicle sticks? Check. You get the idea.
Charlie's workboxes live here, on the bottom shelf.
I found some flatware holders in the closet and didn't need them in the kitchen. 
They make a wonderful spot for the colored pencils, scissors and glue sticks.
Bulletin Board area
Here we have the curriculum books, paper supplies, games, light brights,
Classical Conversations resources for tutoring at our co-op, tall books and some other fun things.
This bookshelf holds math manipulatives, Miriam's workboxes, art work,
oversized books and holiday craft ideas.
This is where Miriam and Charlie put their workbox labels as they finish each box throughout the day.
The music nook in the living room is a favorite spot. 
They have shakers, tin whistles, recorders, all kinds of things.

This is our overflow bookshelf off the kitchen. 

Hubby bought school desks from a public school auction and we find they serve our purposes perfectly as mini-shelves.  This on holds puzzles, Bob Books and the globe.  I recently moved the globe from the school room so the kids have better accessibility to it.   This is off the kitchen across from our overflow bookshelf.

And this one hold Leap Pads. We LOVE Leap Pads!

I hope you enjoyed the tour!
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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Running Toward Our Second Week

So, we've finished our first week of school and I have to admit, we don't have a solid routine down. We didn't accomplish as much as I wanted to, school-wise.

You've seen the movie Airplane, right? You know the running gag where unexpected things keep happening and the guy says,
"Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking."
"Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking."
"Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue."

Well, I thought I may have picked the wrong week to start school. But don't worry, there is a happy ending. Read on.

Day 1 of 180, Monday: We had a fantastic first day. The kids got up, got dressed, brushed teeth, went out to the driveway for a water balloon throwing contest, then ate breakfast before we started school. We began our lessons with a prayer and a devotional. Then we checked out our cool new calendar on the bulletin board and did some addition problems (thanks Khan Academy for teaching my kids how to use a number line effortlessly) and designs with the shaped blocks. Both kids sat happily while completing their reading lessons for the day. And the best part was what they found in their workboxes - six for each of them. We had coloring pages, cutting pages, Read with Mommy Time, snacks, felt play sets and a fishing game. It was a wonderful day in every way.

Day 2 of 180, Tuesday: We went to the amusement park with another family and had a second amazing day. Charlie has added vegetables and fruit to his diet, so guess what? He grew tall enough to ride some real rides. A fabulous time was had by all.

Day 2 of 180, Wednesday: We had been having a minor problem with ants coming in through our kitchen window for a few weeks, and with my (and my husband's) paranoia about spraying chemical poison around, my routine was 1) get up, 2) kill an ant or two, 3) make coffee, 4) wash counters, window sill and sink with cleaner and 4) no more ants until the next morning. Wednesday I got up and there were ants in one of my cabinets. Several were trying to crawl inside a bottle of infant's motrin drops. Flipping out mildly, I spent the morning emptying the contents of 13 cabinets and six drawers onto my dining room table, bookcase, buffet and chairs. And then I held my breath and sprayed poison.
Meanwhile, my daughter asked to get on the computer to work on an art game she enjoys, so I let her and called it "computer." This was fine since I was busy and I needed a good place to start on my loop schedule wheel anyway. After lunch, we finally started our lessons and were able to cover all of our subjects; we did Bible, Reading, Math, Computer, Latin and Spanish. The highlight was during the devotional when I asked the kids, "If you could have anything in the world, what would you want? Charlie answered, "I would want to be a flower so Miriam could pick me."
Melts your heart, right there . . .

Day 3 of 180, Thursday: Okay, I forgot that we were going to D.C. for the day to see our dear friend, Pum from England, and her nephew. We can count this as a field trip, but I won't count it as a school day because I hadn't planned and had no answer for my kids' questions. Plus, I was super crabby half the time and I don't want the kids thinking their teacher is a jerk . . .
By the way, another FABULOUS day.

Day 3 of 180, Friday: I woke up and did not anticipate how utterly exhausted I would be after a day of traipsing around D.C. with my two children, who grew increasingly rambunctious as the evening went on. Before starting our two hour journey home, we had driven around looking for food for one child for oh, about an hour (9-10pm), and as soon as we found a McDonald's to grab a milkshake for her, she took three sips and promptly feel asleep. Home at midnight-thirty, I was in dire need of coffee when I woke up. And I'm trying to quit coffee, so I was conflicted.

Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit coffee.

My husband was tired as well and slept in considerably late, not leaving the house until around 10:30, with request that I run a rather long errand TODAY. This was an errand I had sort of done, but not completely, and it had gotten to the point of affecting him negatively, so I really couldn't ignore it. But what about school?? I've already had two cups of coffee I'm not supposed to have, and a large piece of chocolate, which I'm not supposed to have, and it's now noon and we haven't even started lessons. We ran the rather long errand, stopped for lunch at our church youth group's hot dog (which I am not supposed to have) stand and arrived home.

Remember Wednesday? The ants? The poison? I thought 48 hours might be long enough after spraying ant killer to replace my cabinets to their former state of bursting full and honestly, I couldn't take having to walk to the dining room table to retreive a spoon or a dish or a towel for another minute, so I restocked my cabinets whilst the children made Cooties and got along. (happiness)
My husband came home and asked them why they were making Cooties and not playing Cootie. They told him they'd never played, didn't know how. Oops, my bad. He taught them how to play the game, played three rounds and went back to work. I could stretch it and say that was math since they used dice, but I won't. (By the way, I forgot to mention that I forgot to order the math workbooks so we are playing it by ear until next week for math lessons.) Both kids did their reading lessons, with one child having an emotional breakdown one minute and then asking to do another lesson the next. Can you guess if it was the boy or the girl?

Well, by this time the sun was setting and we have a big day planned tomorrow, so I sent the kids to bed, feeling a little bit like I had failed. I wanted our first week to be flawless and smooth, with five full days and a routine down pat. It didn't happen.

School-wise, I think we could have done better. I could have planned better.

But life-big-picture-wise, this week was unforgettable and wonderful. We had enormous fun and lots of laughs, frolicked with precious friends and had great family time. I realized tonight that my children never once mentioned or asked for television all day. The got along and loved each other well. All in all, I call it a success and I wouldn't change a thing. We're looking foward to Week 2.

Loop Schedule Wheel

This is our loop schedule wheel so we don't miss any subjects. Reading, Math and Bible are not on the loop because we hit those subjects every day most of the time.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Ants Come Marching

The ants come marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah.
I squish them with my great big thumb, hurrah, hurrah.
They picked the wrong day to mess with me;
I'll send them screaming to their knees
And they all go falling down to the ground,
Oh get out of my house. Boom Boom Boom

We are going to have to do school in the afternoon today since this morning I get to remove everything out of my cabinets for the Great Ant Massacre of 2011. Unless they want to pay rent or help with the dishes, they have got to go.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Bursting Into Our First Day

Is there a better way to celebrate the start of school in the heat of summer than with a water balloon throwing contest? We don't think so.

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