Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Rainforest and South America

Today's co-op Around the World class was an especially good one.  We began with an Eyewitness video about the rainforests and the kids loved it.  They all sat quietly, commenting occasionally on the spectacular sights and animals.  Afterward, we had a guest teacher, Mr. Tim, who is a sciene buff and homeschool dad talked to the kids about the rainforest and the liana vines and did a great job.  When I took over we reviewed the four layers and talked about their differences and then made a Rainforest Animals wheel, which proved to be much more difficult for the kids, who were ages 5 to 8, than I anticipated.  I really enjoy teaching this age group.  They are still sweet and young, but they are very curious and they enjoy learning about new things and they are so proud when they can give you the feedback you ask for.  I am going to be leaving this co-op in May and, while some of these kids will also be doing my co-op in the fall, several of them, some who I have had for three years, will not be following me and I will miss them alot.  I feel like I've invested alot of time and energy into them over the last few years and it has been well worth it.  They are a great group of kids!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Check out the resources around you!

I got an email a few weeks ago from a website that tells you about local businesses that do field trips.  AC Moore, a craft store, offered a free hour tour of their store for the kids and some craft time.  They didn't give much information, but I couldn't see what could be wrong with it so I booked it and seven moms and their children met Dakota and I there and we signed in for our tour.  Melissa, our tour guide, was great with the kids, keeping their attention and reigning them in when they got a little unruly.  Not only did she show them many sections of the store, but she asked questions and got them talking about how they could use various craft items to do things they enjoyed.  They stopped after about 20 minutes and did a simple chalk and black paper craft, talked and toured for 15 more minutes and then teamed up to do some die cutting and then went into the classroom, where they got to use various mediums to color and create a dream picture.  Then, as if that weren't wonderful enough, each child and sibling got a goodie bag with a make-it-yourself puzzle, a small toy and a coupon for mom.  It was a very nice morning for both the moms and the children.  Thanks, AC Moore!  You were great!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Back to Normal

Today all the hoopla from the weekend was over and we got back into the groove of things around 11:00am.  I had planned on starting early, but my niece had a major personal setback and I felt it was important to be there for her when she called.  She lives far away and none of our family is there.  I am glad I could at least be an ear to listen and a sounding board for her.  As soon as that call ended I had a nice surprise when my stepfather brought me a brand new wireless printer.  What a treat!  That had to be put aside, however, if I was going to get anything done! 
We didn't do anything out of the ordinary today.  He did his grammar text with workbook pages on contractions, wrote in his journal and practiced his handwriting for language arts.  We worked on fractions for math and we read a general overview of water habitats in our Harcourt Science book, followed by a few worksheets from the coordinating workbook.  I let him do his own reading today, which was a first for him.  He took three easy readers into his room and got up on his bed and spent 30 minutes reading to himself.  He isn't a big fan of reading to begin with, but reading to himself has never happened.  A huge breakthrough!  Afterward he did a Cars poster painting kit for art and practiced his beatboxing for music.  Over the weekend he had baseball and football practice, so PE was taken care of as well.  No social studies today.  This evening we took an hour long nature walk through the park near our house with Daddy and saw a muskrat, many deer and lots of birds.  We looked for animal habitats at the park, threw rocks in the water and got in alot of walking exercise.  Tomorrow is a field trip morning so we will be working later in the afternoon for our homeschooling.  Sometimes that goes well and sometimes not.  We shall see. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Absence makes the heart....hurt

My pregnant daughter returned to North Carolina with her husband today.  She took with her my granddaughter to be...and I won't see them again until the baby is on her way into the world.  That's two months of my daughter changing as my granddaughter grows that I'm going to miss.  I'm hoping to make that 6 hour drive in time to see the baby born and then we are hoping to spend a few days there helping out.  Then we will come home...leaving them there.  They will visit in a few weeks and then probably again in July as they look for a home here in the area.  We will return around the 1st of August to bring them all home to live.  That probably sounds optimistic and I am so lucky that they are coming home, but, while I try so hard to count my blessings, it is literally breaking my heart to be separated from my daughter during this important time in her life and I can't even imagine how I'll feel leaving both my daughter and granddaughter there when we have to come home.  I know other mothers do this all the time.  I know not all of them are lucky enough to have their children within driving distance or planning on returning to live nearby in a few months.  I know.  And my heart breaks for them.  Because I am hurting right now.  I desperately wish things were different.  I feel selfish and immature wanting her here with me.  She is so happy, living the life she has longed for with a house and a husband and her baby on the way.  I am happy for her.  I really am.  I'm just not so happy for me.  My heart hurts.  Alot.  I miss my little girl.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Family Game Night on a Larger Scale

Tonight we had ten of us playing Cranium in the livingroom.  It was a rowdy, fun loving time where we all really connected with each other and everyone was laughing with everyone else.  I think it's a great way for younger kids to know who they are, in terms of being part of a group larger than themselves.  We are family.  On a daily basis that means mom, dad, sisters and brother for us.  But on family game nights uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, aunts, grandmoms and brother in laws can all be here to laugh and play and create lasting memories.  I am so glad our family started this tradition and is expanding on it now.  It's a shame we didn't do it years ago!  I hope that years from now we are still playing games and laughing together...being a family and keeping us close. 

A Humbling Experience

Yesterday was my daughter's baby shower and it went off without a hitch.  There were about 65 people there and the food was good, the children adorable, the family in a good mood and the young friends of the expectant parents full of excitement.  My daughter and her best friend, both very pregnant, sat together and opened Kris' gifts and looked like women....not the young girls I remember, but women in their mid twenties who are raising families or about to.  When did that happen?  The "kids" are now teens, the babies are rambunctious kids and their are new little lives that weren't here just a few months ago.  My mom is near 80 and looking fabulous.  My mother in law and her sister there too, all being the matriarchs of the family, and my husband and I were the proud grandparents, the "next generation" longer THE generation that was getting the attention.  I was okay with it all.  I had a wonderful time!  Then we were back at my house and my daughter and I sat on the floor going through all the beautiful little pink clothes and baby gear and when I expressed regret that the baby would be born in North Carolina and I wouldn't see her much for the first eight weeks of her life, my daughter kindly put me in my place, telling me that I would have to stop whining about it and stop worrying about what I had here for the baby because....the baby isn't mine.  What?  Not mine?  Yes.  The truth is that this little life would go on just fine without me.  She has her mommy, who will be a fabulous parent, and her daddy, who is learning about children and will rise to the challenge I am sure.  But she isn't mine.  It will be nice for me to have clothes and a crib here for her for her visits and for when I begin daycare in a few months and have her while her mom works.  But I don't NEED those things...she isn't mine.  I think that's probably a tough thing for most new grandmothers...particularly baby loving ones like me.  I have always been the one to bring the babies into the name them and make all the decisions about their pacifier styles, what types of bottles to use, what rules they will live by.  But this time that is not my job.  It is my job to abide by her mom's wishes and to love her and love her and love her some more.  And I will.  She is not mine and that is hard.  She will not be in my life everyday when she is first born.  And that is hard.  But she will be a huge part of my life from minute one, with a special place in my heart all her own and soon, before she is more than a few months old, she will spending her days here with her Nana and I'll get to be that huge part of her life I crave to be.  And that's good. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

My First Baby Is Home

We are taking a break from homeschooling for a few days.  My oldest daughter is home and we are having her baby shower tomorrow!  She got in at 6am this morning, just as her dad and I were getting up so she went in my bed to take a little nap before her baby brother got up.  He knew she was coming today, but not that early.  When Dakota woke up I led him into my room and he could tell someone was in my bed, but I think he thought it was his dad.  When I put him up next to her and pulled back the covers the look of pure bliss on his face brings tears to my eyes even now.  He and I miss her so very much.  She is so close to us and her absence is felt deeply by my little son and I.  I watched them snuggle under the covers, my first baby and my last, twenty years apart, with my first granddaughter snuggled away inside and squished between the two of them.  She was a little performer too, kicking on cue when Dakota and I put our hands on Kris' tummy to feel her move.  I can't wait for this little girl to make her arrival.  I've been waiting for what seems an eternity for her and I hope with all my heart that I can make it to North Carolina in time to see her make her grand entrance into this world.  It's going to be hard for me to leave them there, but they won't be coming home for two months or so after her birth.  I know they will come here to visit in between, but not being able to snuggle with her and watch her change and grow for those long weeks apart is going to take everything I have.  Well, I keep telling myself it could be worse and they could be staying away indefinitely, but I know myself and it's going to be a huge emotional challenge.  For now, for these few days, I am going to enjoy my daughter.  It will probably be the last time I see her before the baby comes.  I am going to smile and laugh and try not to think about the next few months when they are so far away and there's no visit on the calendar.  Sigh.  Parenthood sure is tough on the heart.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Making It Work for Me

Today I had the first meeting for those people interested in my new AAHE Cooperative.  Oddly enough, or maybe not so much, I knew 3/4 of the women and children there well.  All of us are looking for something a little different either in place of or in addition to what we have now.  Presently I belong to a co-op that has served me well for three years.  I have made many friends there, as has my son.  It has given me the opportunity to teach, which is my passion, and the children that I have taught there have a special place in my heart.  On the downside, I have chosen to teach two classes and I am serious about my lessons so the planning can be very time consuming.  Dakota and I are exhausted by the lunch break and we choose to go home instead of staying for lunch and socializing.  I just don't have anything left by that time.  Looking ahead, I know that my life will be very different for the next school year.  My granddaughter to be, Natalie, is due May 31st and by the end of August she will join us all day in our homeschooling lifestyle.  When I look at my life now, I know I cannot keep up the schedule I have set for myself and give enough time and attention to both Dakota and Natalie.  So something has to give.  And in true Cindy form, I have chosen to make a new limited co-op that will work for me.  In my new venture, which is five minutes from my house, I will oversee a group of women and children who will be learning geography and science together each Wednesday morning.  We mothers will teach in rotation, meaning that each one of us will only teach once every few months.  On the other weeks, we will be sitting in the hall socializing and relaxing and sharing mommy stories over coffee or whatever is our beverage of choice....within reason!  While I worry that I may not be satisfying my love of teaching, I know that I will be giving myself the time needed to adjust to having a newborn in my life again and I will be lessening the load that I am carrying.  I'm making it work for me and in the process, I hope that I am making it work for other women and children as well. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Common Ground

Common ground...that special something that creates a bond between parents and child or husband and wife.  We have alot of that in my family, especially with my husband and I and the boys.  We like sports, nature, family movie nights, country music and board games.  We like to travel, but we love home just as much.  We like rainy days in pj's and football Sundays in the fall.  Common ground.  Tonight we got in the car, my husband, Dakota and I, and drove to the state park in Elkridge.  We didn't have long, only about an hour before dark.  All we were looking to do was spot some deer and maybe walk by the water.  Nothing "special", I suppose, but something that we enjoy doing and that can be easily shared without much planning, time or money.  We were rewarded tonight with about 12 deer sightings and we even got to see a beaver.  He was swimming upstream and making no ground, but it gave us time to appreciate him, since beavers aren't a very common sighting for us.  We walked along a path, raced sticks in the river and made a big rock go kerplunk.  We looked for owls, but still, they are elusive to me. We threw in a little homeschool science lesson and looked for animal habitats as we walked.  Most of all, we relaxed and had a nice night together.  We didn't do anything "special".   Some families may have found it downright boring.  But for us, it is enjoyable, common ground and that's what holds us together.

Sometimes It's Just That Easy!

Today our schooling went very quickly!  I had to work in the morning so I gave Dakota his geography homework from co-op, which is a follow the instructions map of South America.  He worked on that and watched a movie so I could finish up.  Afterward, we played a cute game called Put It In The Bank that I got at the dollar store a few months ago.  You draw cards and add up the money on the card.  If you get it correct, you move a spot.  This took about 30 minutes and I decided we had worked hard enough to skip a structured math lesson for the day.  Science was a continuation of habitats, learning about the 4 ground habitats today from our text and doing a few workbook pages to go along with it.  We are going to follow through the text and then break it down and learn about each area a little more in depth through the next couple of weeks.  We did handwriting and grammar, working on N,V,Adj, N structure today and on compound words.  Koda came up with his own rap song about Mario for music and he had 2 hours of football last night for PE.  He's in his brother's room playing Reading Rabbit on the computer now so the only thing left to do is reading, which we will get to tonight.  I am babysitting his best buddy (and bff's little sister!) this afternoon, so it's playdate time and I think we may go to the park if my heating oil is delivered by then.  I love when it all comes together effortlessly like it did today.  1:15 and we are done for the day!  (or at least he is!  I have planning to do for my new co-op meeting tomorrow!)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Always Be Prepared

I read about a book online, Odd Boy Out, and really liked the premise.  I did not, however, read it before I introduced it to my son.  Likewise, I printed the grade 1/2 packet for the story unit and assumed all would be well as I've done them before.  When I sat down this afternoon to do Social Studies we read the book and, while I thought it was very well written, it was over Dakota's head.  I changed the wording a bit and kept going.  Then when I sat down to do the paperwork, it too was at too high a level for my son.  Sigh.  Not the best lesson in the world. I know better.  This is not the first time it has happened. Note to better prepared!! For science we did start a very modified version of the animal habitat unit.  We went over the vocabulary in his Harcourt text (Grade 2, found at the thrift store for less than $2!) and read Part 1 of Chapter 1 then did the corresponding worksheets.  We read some fun books today, did a math unit and worked on the basic language arts assignments.  All in all, we accomplished enough, but there was nothing stellar about today.  It wasn't dynamic.  It wasn't wonderful.  It was just normal.  And that's okay for a rainy Monday when I didn't feel like moving out of the chair!!

The Start of Something New

Today we will start new units in science and social studies and I always love the anticipation of that.  I am not, by nature, a hardcore Science fan.  I leave that to my friend Lavender!  I am more of a nature person, enjoying the animals and plants units, which we will do all spring.  Today we start our Spring unit, encompassing all things warmer, blooming and green and then add in the start of our animal habitats.  This is a wonderful time of year to take long walks and look for places where animals make their homes in the parks near our own home.  After than will be animal babies.  By next month they should be arriving in the area as well.  For Social Studies we are studying Albert Einstein for a few days.  I found a great book called Odd Boy Out and a book unit on and we will be learning about who the boy was and what accomplishments he achieved as a man.  So off I go to start my Monday.  My plan is to keep it laid back for the this rainy Monday morning, giving my little man time to sleep in after a busy weekend.  Breakfast and playtime to ease into the week and homeschooling to begin around 11am. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

An Evening Well Spent

Yesterday Dakota spent the day with his grandmother and she took him to bowling so I could take a much needed break and have lunch with my sister.  After I picked him up we went home to relax for a bit and then my husband and I took the boys to the restaurant where our daughter is a waitress and had dinner.  It was a beautiful early spring evening and we decided to spend the evening at the state park instead of going home.  Dakota practiced riding his new skateboard and I was taken aback a bit to realize how tall he's gotten and how lanky.  He did not look like a "little boy" at all, but a sturdy elementary aged child who had confidence in his abilities and a swagger in his step.  As the sun started to go down we put the skateboard away and went down to the water's edge where my husband worked with Dakota on skipping rocks.  It really was the perfect night, weatherwise, and we stayed awhile, me taking pictures and the two of them pitching rocks.  I got some really good pictures and I went home feeling relaxed and rested.  I am so glad spring is here!

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Happy St. Patrick's Day!  All week we have been thinking green and by the time we got to today, we didn't have as much enthusiasm as I had anticipated!  Thursday is our "school" day when we go to our co-op in Columbia.  After a very late night last night, I was prepared to be a grump this morning and dread going to co-op, but actually, I've had a pretty good day!  It's 2:15 in the afternoon now and I'm wearing out quickly, but the high energy demanded by my co-op classes didn't fail me when I needed it and I actually had a good time with the kids.  My Around the World geography class is made up of 14 boys and girls ages 5 to 8.  We do mapping, flags, cultural lessons, word games, crafts, playground games etc on the country we are studying at the time.  Today we returned to Europe to have some fun with Ireland.  How could I pass that up when we met on St. Patrick's Day?  Dakota is in this class with me and he had a good day as well.  We read about St. Patrick and about the key details of the country and then did our mapping activity.  We made the country's flag out of construction paper, did a find a word in groups and colored the rainbow.  Then we headed outside to do a "colors of the rainbow" scavenger hunt and let the kids run around for twenty minutes in the glorious spring weather. We covered art, phys ed and social studies. Afterward, Dakota went to his science class and I had my preK kids.  We painted leprechauns, read a story and sang some songs.  Then it was their turn to go do their scavenger hunt and run around.  Afterward, Dakota and I came home and chilled out for a few hours.  Co-op wipes us out! We don't do any other schoolwork on Thursdays and then my record book wraps Friday, Saturday and Sunday into one day to encompass anything we do during that time.  Now it's time for the family to come home and I am hoping we can relax tonight and watch tv and just spend some time together because I'm too tired to do anything else.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Cramming It All In

Today I had alot to get done, but I knew there was alot I needed to get in a fun homeschool day so I was determined to start early.  Dakota and I started the day, after dropping off my older son at school,  by driving down to the park by our house and looking for signs of spring.  We found fresh shoots of very green grass in an area recently burned by a fire.  We saw buds on the trees and colors starting to revive a little.  We rolled down the window and listed to the birds.  I told him how to identify the calls of the red winged black bird and the crow.  After his bath, I made him a green shamrock pancake.  We started our seat work by doing the St. Patrick's Day packet from SchoolExpress.  Lots of language arts in there including writing a poem, doing a cloze activity and word games. It also had the history of St. Patrick, who he was and why we celebrate his life.  Social Studies.  When we finished we moved on to finish our Australia unit.  We made an Australian Animal Safari Mobile (very simple, with animal pictures on one side and their description on the other) and we did some Australian Aboriginal Dot Painting, which was a big hit for Dakota.  For math we just did St. Patrick's Day worksheets, doing addition and subtraction to make words, crack codes and do a puzzle.  No unit lesson today.  We did the next unit out of his grammar text which introduced adjectives and this went well.  He wrote in his journal.  We sang some songs about birds like Kookaburra for music and then headed out the door to AC Moore for some 50% off St. Patrick's Day items for our co-op tomorrow and our personal scavenger hunt with our friend tomorrow afternoon.  I ended up buying chocolates and molds to make baby shower favors for my daughter's shower next week, clay pots for both Dakota and I to make adorable bug crafts and other odds and ends.  I won't mention the amount of money spent....Now we are home and he is reading to me as I write this.  I will read a few holiday themed books to him and then we will go out and mix up the cake batter and add the colors of the rainbow to make our cupcakes for tonight's dessert.  Click on the link on this blog to make these fun and easy treats. Done.  I was a good mommy and a good homeschool teacher today.   Dinner is in the crockpot and almost finished.  The house is dirty, but work is calling.  Wednesday is my tv night, my treat to myself.  I will work, feed the family, finish my planning for co-op and then plunk my bottom in the recliner to watch Ghost Hunters and American Idol.  Daddy can take Dakota to football and the three guys can watch the basketball tournament in the bedroom tonight.  Momma doesn't give up her spot on Wednesday!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Grown Up" Children

My two daughters are "grown ups" by the standards we set in society.  One, at 26, had a rough start right out of high school with a lack of motivation and then found the man of her dreams, only to have to wait for years for him to come back from overseas with the military.  During that time she found herself, getting a good, steady job and living with us at home, but she still wasn't "grown up" living here.  Momma cooked, momma cleaned and momma did everything while the daughter lounged and read and played on the computer.  Now she is married, pregnant, living in a different state and is definitely an adult.  She has a good husband, 2 dogs, a nice house and a baby on the way.  She does all those things that classify one as an adult like paying bills, grocery shopping, taking care of a home, cooking dinner.  She made it! and I am proud!  Then there is daughter number two.  She had a very tough time during her last year of high school and moved out of our home to live with her natural father.  The grass was definitely not greener and she begged to come home.  After about six months she did, for several months.  She was holding a good job then, waitressing and doing pretty well.  She moved out.  She moved back.  She moved out. She moved back. She moved out.  She moved back.  You get the picture.   Then she found the man she hoped was "the one" and they moved in together and I was pleased.  He had three children who visited often and she was an excellent "mother".  She wasn't working, but she cooked and cleaned and grocery shopped.  She was well on her way to being an "adult".  And then he left.  Out of the blue. And she was lost.  She tried to keep their apartment but she couldn't find a decent job so we agreed that she could move in again until she got on her feet.  That was six months ago.  She has a job.  It doesn't pay well, but the staff is wonderful.  She works from 4 to 10 at night, 4 nights a week.  Not enough.  Then after work, or instead of work on her days off, she goes to the bar and hangs out with friends.  She goes to bonfires and parties and she gets in early in the morning as we are getting up for the day.  She does no laundry.  She doesn't cook.  She sleeps til 2pm.  She is not an adult.  The problem is, she is 23.  She is, in my eyes, past the point of these games.  I know she has it in her to be an adult because I saw it for almost a year, but now she is back to bickering with her brothers, being sullen or sassy with my husband and I, partying with friends until dawn and giving absolutely nothing back in any form to the household.  I don't mind helping her. I would even do her clothes...if they made it to the laundry.  I would invite her to our family meals...if she was around to eat them.  She drops her trash and her dishes, her water bottles, blankets etc.  I could make her pick them up....but she's just gone to bed and if I wake her I have to deal with her.  So I do it, and by 2pm when she wakes up, I am knee deep in schooling and cleaning and working and I just don't want to get into it then.  She's gone by 3.  Am I wrong?  Yes.  Should I give her an ultimatum to leave.  Yes.  Will I?  No.  I can't get past the fact that she is my child and she has nowhere else to go.  Our relationship has always been strained, for as long as I can remember.  She was a hard child and she continues to be a hard "adult", and I worry that eventually there will be a huge blowup with harsh words and bad feelings and what is strained may be broken.  I don't want that to happen, but I don't want it to go on like this.  She is a good girl with a heart of gold, but she has no purpose and she has yet to find herself.  The stress is intense.  It is a daily force in my life that I would love to remove.  I want to see her succeed and be happy more than anything in the world, but I do not think that this will happen if things keep going the way they are.  I am at my wit's end, but I am her mother and she is my child...and those ties run deep.

The Best Laid Plans

Yesterday I was all gung ho about the St. Patrick's Day plans working out, but the best laid plans can be sidetracked by life!  Today Dakota was playing really well building a Lego family that he wants me to submit to the Lego magazine.  He's made quite the creation and I thought that while he did that I'd get some of my work done for my job.  First mistake!  Work called and there were issues and they were sending a messenger with a rush job.  Great.  So I tell Dakota he has 10 minutes and run to check my email.  Second mistake!  There are several things that need my attention there AND I get two phone calls, one from my mother, who is on her way Dakota's still playing well so I figure I'll make the calls and send the emails while we wait for my mother because she will disrupt things anyway.  It's now after 11.  As my mother walks in my husband calls and says he'll be home for lunch before noon.  Okay.  This is why we homeschool, right?  We can handle chores and setbacks and juggle several tasks all while being with our children.  So now it's noon and my husband comes in and says his work truck was broken into last night and he needs to call the police to make a report.  We have lunch, he deals with his issues and I get a call from a friend who offers to keep Dakota for a few hours later this afternoon so I can work.  So now it's 1:00 and we are leaving the house at 2:30!  Time to get serious!  I get out the wooden leprechaun mask that I bought at AC Moore and some washable paints.  I set up the table and give Dakota 15 minutes to paint.  He's happy about this and paints with gusto.  I get in my rush job that was delivered.  Next we do 3 pages out of our grammar text, reviewing nouns, which thankfully is easy.  We jump to Social studies and practice saying silly things with an Australian accent and learn the lingo for several of their words before we get serious and do a rather difficult geography cloze activity on the area and I let Dakota dictate and I write in the interest of time.  On to Science!  We read a chapter from our Forces and Motions unit in our text and then do a few workbook pages that go along with the lesson.  That's it.  2:30.  So no math today.  No reading today.  No music or PE.  Very little green and St. Patrick's Day BUT tomorrow is another day and we will have fun!  I'm planning on rainbows, cupcakes and leprechauns and an early start to our school work!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Think Green!!

Today we began our countdown to St. Patrick's Day.  I always said I'd be prepared to do crafts and baking all week and this time, I was actually prepared!!  Today we made cut and paste leprechauns, a glitter glue pot of gold and read Jack and the Leprechaun.  We got out our decorations and made the diningroom/classroom look festive and we planned out the rest of our days for the week.  After journaling about our Baltimore Blast soccer game that we attended last night, we worked on our Australia unit for social studies, doing a mapping question and answer and making a musical instrument called a digiridoo.  For science we did our workbook pages from Harcourt Science and reviewed forces before playing with some cool magnet toys, a favorite part of Dakota's day.  Math was measuring with one inch squares and then we did our reading, two books read to me by Dakota and two books read by me to him.  Plenty of physical activities this weekend to cover our PE requirements (bowling, baseball and football) and also a two hour game of Apples to Apples to add to our Language Arts section.  Done!  A good homeschooling day under our belt just in time for Dakota to have ants in his pants and for me to get in a little bit of work for my job before meeting with two of my favorite ladies for coffee drinks and conversation at the mall.  Tomorrow we are going to bake some rainbow cupcakes, which turned out really well last year (watch for the link tomorrow!), and we are going to work on rainbows, which go with our story of the day.  I plan on making this St. Patrick's Day week a memorable one.  Why not?  They are only little once and it's always good to find a reason to celebrate!!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Keeping It In The Family

We have always played games as a family, but this new "offical" game night has come upon us in the last few weeks and it has been very pleasant (most of the time!)  Our current games are Buzzworks and Apples to Apples and my four kids, both young and grown, really enjoy them.  We have invited my sister in law over and that is tons of fun, but tonight we decided to expand and invite my sister in law and her husband, my brother in law and my mother in law.  That made eight of us at the table and a mix of different personalities that I wasn't sure would be conducive to good gaming.  I was pleasantly surprised, however, when everything came together quickly (after two hands of mass confusion) and we got in two solid hours of game playing and belly laughing, each of us laughing til we cried at some point in the night.  It was definitely good for the soul and I love having everyone close and happy and involved.  I think it's a wonderful experience for my sons and I know it's also a great vocabulary builder for my little six year old.  I am thinking that next time my sister in law comes over we should try a new game.  I'll have to do a little research and see what will work for us since it's often hard to include the little one in our games and he really wants to be right in there on his own.  I hope we can continue this new tradition we have started.  Family time is so important and if you can get in a good "roll on the floor" laugh to go with it, you have really scored!!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Pictures Take Me Back

I'm  a picture person.  Ask my children or my husband and they will tell you that at any given minute the odds are good you will find me taking pictures, editing pictures on my computer, putting pictures into frames or looking at the pictures in the many frames throughout my house.  Pictures take me back to the time when a child was still tiny, my husband and I were young, to our first home, to my childhood.  Pictures give me back my father and my grandparents.  They connect me with my past and bring the memories soaring back so that I can enjoy the movie clip in my mind over and over.  Digital photography has been such a blessing.  I have literally thousands of pictures of Dakota and they are all photoshopped to perfection, cropped to bring out the details.  How I wish I had digital cameras when my daughters were little!!  I can play my pictures in a frame, watch them come up one by one on my computer or even pop them up on my giant tv screen.  Thank you technology!  My babies have grown so quickly and life has moved so fast.  Gone are the days when two toddler girls rocked in their little chairs side by side in our living room chatting in squeaky little voices about whatever it is that little girls talk about.  Gone is our beloved Lacy, a mixed breed sweetheart of a dog who gave us unconditional love for fourteen years.  Gone is my daddy, a man who visited every single day, bringing the girls treats, taking them to the park, sitting and chatting with me.  But I get them all back with pictures.  I can focus on a shot of a moment on vacation years ago and remember the whole wonderful week, the people we went with, the sights that we saw.  Yes, pictures take me back in a most wonderful way, so if you see me with my camera and I seem to be just a little bit in the way, take pity on my soul....but remember, years later you may have forgotten this special moment, but I will have everything I need to play it over again and again in my mind!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rainy Days and Homeschooling Are the Best!!

One of my very favorite things about being a homeschooler is that when it's pouring rain outside, we get to stay inside, snuggling under blankets, playing games or just having a lazy day and hanging out.  Currently, I have a junior in high school who I homeschooled for eight years.  Taking him to school usually negates the ALL day inside plan but today, since he didn't get in from a sports game with his dad in DC until midnight, I used my motherly powers to declare it a NO SCHOOL day for him and we all hid behind the curtains, being lazy and doing a whole lot of nothing for the first part of the day.  Dakota is working on building a Lego family so that kept him busy and then he decided to lay on the sofa and watch a movie, a wonderful rainy day luxury.  I got some of my folders done for my job and then around 1:30, when we were good and ready, we sat down and did a math lesson, learned about forces and magnets and went around the house on a hunt to find what magnets do and do not attract, wrote in his journal about the rain and read some books to each other.  We started a book about all things from Australia and did the cloze activities and coloring on the first few pages then used Enchanted Learning to print off an Australian animals wheel.  We cut it out, glued it to posterboard and added a brad.  Dakota was thrilled!  He said that later he wants to make a game out of it and use the wheel as his spinner.  Bonus!!  When that was finished I asked him to find an Australian animal from his Animal Planet coloring book and work on that then we called it a day.  We were only working about 90 minutes, but with last night's football practice added in, we made the day pretty complete.  Science, social studies, language arts, literature, math, art and PE and the joy of no rush, no fuss and being together.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pushing It To The Limits

All parents, but especially homeschooling parents, devote a ton of time to their children.  They sit by for hours on end listening to piano recitals, watching budding gymnasts flip and tumble, fanning themselves in the summer  heat while their child runs the bases...  I've done lots of watching and waiting over the last twenty five years of parenting, but tonight was one of those memorable ones for a not so good reason.  I sat tonight in freezing cold, windy conditions on a muddy football field in Andover watching my six year old practice for arena football and getting pushed around by the other boys because my little spitfire of a boy, who doesn't take any crap from anyone and will knock his teenage brother to his knees with a good hit, is a pansy on the football field.  He stands there and lets the other boys nail him over and over.  He gets in place to do his own tackling and tiptoes toward his opponent, wrapping him in what looks like a hug instead of a beastly knock down.  I don't get it.  And on nights like tonight, when I'm cold and tired and wishing to be anywhere but where I was, it was especially hard to be the parent on the sidelines.  After two hours and ten minutes the coach finally let those little frozen popsicles go home and my little man wimpered and told me how cold and tired he was and "momma please just take me home!"  So I took off his equipment, wrapped him in a blanket, buckled him in his car seat and headed home.  As he defrosted he started talking and I asked him if he really liked football and did he really think it was for him.  He said "Mom, I didn't like the cold, but I loved the hitting.  It was great!"  Go figure!  So I guess I'll be out there again, watching him take a beating and hoping that he's learning something about the game and about life.  The weather may have been pushing this woman to her limits tonight, but my little son wasn't even close to being pushed to his and that's all that really matters.

Frustration Tolerance

Today was an okay homeschooling day for my son and I, though my frustration tolerance was low.... very low.  I'm a bit under the weather from allergies, feeling prickly about my lack of time to do anything to completion and angry that my day wasn't progressing as I had hoped.  None of this was my kindergartener's fault, however, and I tried to remind myself of this while we did our work this morning.  We started out with our language arts basics - journal, handwriting and grammar text.  We went in to read, Koda to me and me to him, but again, I was prickly and his constant ooching and scooching all over made me grumpy.  Math was an easy lesson and we completed this before lunch.  After our break, which I felt was no break at all since I didn't get to put my bottom in a chair for more than 2 minutes at a time, we started a new science unit on Forces and Motion.  My son really likes that kind of thing, but he had to demonstrate pushing with his open bottle of water....all over the table and books.  I tried not to shout.  I wasn't terribly successful.  We worked on a fun demo at the computer and then rounded out our seatwork with some mapping for Australia.  Arena football practice is later tonight.  So we are done.  Literally, I am DONE.  I don't want to be bothered and luckily he has a buddy over for a playdate and I am left to myself for awhile to work at my job and be on the computer for my pleasure for a few minutes.  Homeschooling days are not always the way we wish they were.  Today was far from my best, but I don't think it was a complete washout either.  We got our work done.  He had fun with forces and energy and neither of us is missing pieces or otherwise out of sorts.  Some days are like this.  On to the next.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mardii Gras Tuesday

Today we had to go to the DMV early to get Dakota a photo ID for arena football.  He spent the short wait practicing his shading technique when writing letters.  He was so proud of himself because his older sister showed him how to do this weeks ago and he finally mastered it.  Errands had to be run and we decided to meet up with our favorite friends and have lunch, a short playdate and then do some Mardi Gras school work together.  We read to the boys about the celebration of Mardi Gras and what it is and where it originated.  We did some mapping to see where the celebration is held, did a cloze activity and colored a masquerade mask.  Both boys did a math lesson separately and then we played a very quick game of Disney Apples to Apples before heading out to pick up Dakota's brother and pick up our car from the shop, as well as swinging past the library to pick up our books on hold and let Daktoa get two comic books. The neighbors were waiting for him when he got home and off to run around outside for a few hours before dinner and winding down for the night.  Oh, and on the ride around today, we sang out loud to our favorite country songs from my Ipod.  So let's, art, PE, math, social studies, language arts.  Now, if we read a few stories before bed tonight, we will have accomplished a complete homeschool day and had some good fun with good friends in the process.  That's the way it's supposed to be!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Being a Mother Doesn't Stop at 18

When you have a child, it really is a forever thing.  Anyone who tells you that you will worry until they grow up does not have a grown up child.  My first baby is carrying my first grandchild just now.  She will be 28 weeks pregnant tomorrow and that is very significant to me because I had toxemia and gave birth to her brother Brian when I was 28 weeks pregnant.  He weighed 2lbs and was 13" long.  He was in the NICU for 69 days and I remember every one of them.  His life was so fragile and he held mine in the palm of his teeny tiny little hand.  Now my daughter has reached that point in her pregnancy and is not feeling well today...weak and dizzy and confused.  I want to be with her...but did I mention that she lives in North Carolina, a six hour drive from my Maryland home?  Her husband has a few more months in the military before he is discharged and they are living near Fort Bragg.  Now my baby and my grandbaby are possibly in danger and I can not do anything about it but worry...and worry...and worry some more.  She says she will go to the doctor tomorrow, but if I had gone to bed that night eighteen years ago when I wasn't feeling well, her brother and I wouldn't be here.  Please God, watch over my baby and grandbaby tonight.  Keep them safe and well and let tomorrow shine brightly for them.  Watch over them and protect them when I cannot.  They mean everything to me.

Just Another Manic Monday

Today lacked the motivation and organization of last Monday.  We muddled through today while I tried to catch up on chores, emails, work and everything else that needed to be done.  I read some stories and Dakota read a few to me while we snuggled under a blanket on the couch.  We got in our math lesson on vertical, horizontal and oblique lines...a concept that wasn't half as difficult as remembering and pronouncing those words! A breakthrough today was Koda's journal entry.  It was excellent and he wrote for nine whole minutes!  A little grammar workbook, some handwriting, two Scholastic News magazines and we called it a school day.  All in all, I suppose it wasn't too bad, but it left me frustrated and feeling like I really should have done more.  We can get in what's needed, but where was the fun?  When I take the time to plan things out we do more art, cooking and games and the lack of tension is notable.  Unfortunately, life has been chaotic and I can't always do exactly what I would like, but at the end of the day we've learned something new and we've done it together.

Family Game Night

It's all the rage now to stay in and have family meals and play family games and spend time as a family....  Well, it's always been all the rage here at our house, but with Dakota getting older, things are starting to get alot easier.  We have always been a very traditional family.  I've stayed at home with the children, making extra money where I can babysitting or currently doing transcription and dad has brought home the bacon (while I fry it up in the pan lol)  We have two girls and two boys and two dogs and a cat and a fish.  We have dinner together every night, made by me and not ordered in, and we have played games and watched movies together ever since the girls, now age 25 and 23, were small.  When the girls were teenagers they were no longer interested in our family time, but now, as adults they have come back into the fold.  Brian, our older son, is almost eighteen and very involved with the family.  The trouble came, however, when all the older people in the family could play a game and little Dakota couldn't keep up.  This caused frustration and tears on his part and aggravation on ours.  Recently, however, we have discoverd Buzz Words and Buzz Words Junior and Apples to Apples and Disney Apples to Apples.  These games are fun for all of us and they are great for vocabulary building and the critical thinking process.  Several times a week we gather around the table and, while there is still some squabbling amongst the boys occasionally, we all laugh and have a great time playing a game and just enjoying being a family.  If you haven't tried playing board games with your family, make it a priority some time soon.  Not only is it fun, but it's educational and you'll be building habits that your children may take with them to their families someday!

Friday, March 4, 2011

One of Those Days

Do you ever have one of those days where things are so crazy and your kids are so out of control that you wonder what in the world you are doing homeschooling???  Can't I pay a bus to come and get him??  Luckily, those days don't come around very often, but my little guy was more than a handful today!  He had an agenda and I did not have the time to entertain it, so there was our problem.  The only homeschooling we got in on this Fun Friday was bowling and some computer time, but nothing more educational than Nick Jr.  Oh well.  Some days go like that.  We are looking forward to an extremely busy Saturday with baseball clinic starting tomorrow and errands and grocery shopping to do, but Sunday....I can't wait for Sunday.  I'm going nowhere and doing nothing outside of the house.   Love those kinds of days. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Abbreviated Co-op

Today was a co-op day and this usually makes for a crazy Thursday.  Dakota's allergy meds made our life pretty interesting, but we did get in our Around the World class, taking care of Social Studies with a cultural movie on our new continent, Australia and a few important facts read together from a shared worksheet.  We made our passports and Aboriginal flags, taking care of art and played a game of Australian animal bingo, taking care of science with the animal info.  I gave him the afternoon off and made him rest because he wasn't feeling well and no sports tonight for him, so it wasn't a terribly productive homeschooling day, but we did cover a few bases.  Tomorrow is "Fun Friday" so, for the next three days, we will combine whatever we get in to make one full homeschool day for our records.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Squeeze Play!

Today I had many, many things to do but I wanted to make sure we got in at least the basics in school.  We have enough PE and Art to cover a few days ahead, but I wasn't willing to call it a day and not do any work at all.  I work from home and my "office" is my desk where I also homeschool from.  Dakota sits at the table by me and I can print and search while he's doing a little independent work.  Today I was all about having him do what he could on his own so I could finish my folders for work...not an easy task for a kindergartener!!  He did well, though, and finished his George Washington packet with the word games, did his math lesson and addition practice, colored his homework for our co-op tomorrow and then we went in together and read The Cat In The Hat and did the cloze activity that went with that.  Thankfully, MomMom picked him up at noon to take him to Chuck E. Cheese and I got to finish my folders and drive to Lutherville to drop them off and pick up the next batch.  A quick stop at the library to pick up books for my units next week and I arrived home just in time to let them in the door.  A little down time and dinner and then off he went with his dad for his first arena football practice.  I'm home planning for tomorrow's co-op classes and looking forward to my favorite nite of television with American Idol, Ghost Hunters and Toddlers & Tiaras :-p  If you stop by to read my blog, leave me a message!  I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Some Days are Longer Than Others

Today was a field trip day for us.  Our group went to Port Discovery and Dakota played soccer endlessly with his buddies and enjoyed pretend play in the diner and the Royal Farm store.  After three hours we are both tired.  It was a nice time for both of us, hanging out with friends, but it's so nice to be home for the rest of the day.  This afternoon I have to work and he's relaxing with a Dr. Seuss Horton Hears a Who movie and doing his coloring homework from his co-op class.  Not much for the books today, but a full one none the less.

This evening we played regular Apples to Apples and Disney Apples to Apples.  Dakota worked with alot of unfamiliar vocabulary in this game as well as practicing his reading skills.  Afterward we sat as a family and judged all the male vocalists on American Idol.  My son is a very opinionated young man when it comes to his musical taste!