Sunday, April 24, 2011

Vacation

Yesterday was another cloudy, cold day here at the ocean until about 4.  We got in a round of putt putt and hit Walmart for Easter goodies and groceries and then came back to the condo.  It had gotten nicer out, cold still, but not rainy, so I let Dakota convince me to take him onto the beach.  That boy loves the water and the sand.  He ran all around, kicking and throwing wet sand into the ocean, daring the waves to catch him and losing the bet!  I took pictures and tried to soak up the memories.  They grow so fast and watching my kids at the beach has been one of those constants in my life.  I can remember the girls in their little bikinis, Brian David with his beautiful blond girls gleaming in the sun and Dakota at three and four jumping the waves.  Yesterday he had on a warm gray sweatshirt, rolled up blue jeans and "his feet".  He looked so young and strong and healthy.  Thank you God for that.  He is the epitome of a little boy and I am very grateful. 
     Today we took the kids to the Salisbury Zoo.  This is always a treat for all of us because it's so green and cozy and you see animals doing things you never expected.  Today we saw 2 herons flying high into the treetops to their nests.  We saw many, many geese sitting expectantly on their eggs while their mates hissed at anything that came to close.  We saw pelicans fishing, turtles sunning and a snake swimming through the water.  We saw chipmunks scurry and peacocks roaming free AND we saw all the caged animals too!  Afterward we went back the long way through Snow Hill and Berlin.  These quaint, beautiful towns are nice, but there isn't really anything to do.  We stopped on Main Street in Berlin hoping to find a little ice cream shop, but with it being Easter Sunday, everything was closed up tight.  Back in OC we got ice cream on the boardwalk, took one last stroll, bought one last Thrashers fries and let Koda play one last set of games.  Now we are back at the condo for one last relaxing evening (I am surely going to miss these nights reading and watching tv and gazing out at the ocean that's just outside my window).  I'm making dinner while the guys are building what looks to be an awesome sand castle.  Tomorrow we'll go back to reality.  Sigh.  I'm not really ready..

Friday, April 22, 2011

Vacation

This weekend our family is enjoying a few days at the beach and, while Dakota thinks he is on "spring break", I know that we will be learning through our experiences here and I plan to make every day count!  Yesterday we didn't do much by way of education because my older son had a college visit at Salisbury University.  We had big plans to do the zoo while we were there, but we were exhausted after walking the campus for two hours and decided to call it a day and save the zoo for the weekend.  The guys(husband, both sons and teenage friend/"adopted" third son) played a video game tournament while I took care of dinner and then we all headed to the beach for some football and frisbee fun.  I got to walk a bit along the shoreline where the water was coming to meet the sand and the serenity of it all really hit me.  The same motion of the water, the horizon, the beautiful cotton candy colored sky as the sun set...God is good.  He will show us his presence if we just take the time to look.  It's all here, every day, even when I'm not looking.  The hectic life, the anxiety, the schedules, the family issues...everything I experience that causes me stress is all around me, but here, no matter if I am present or not, the serenity is always the same.  The waves crash in.  The water moves out.  The sun rises over the ocean and then sets over the bay.  It's always here and I just need to remember it and store it away in my happy place to go to when life becomes too much to handle back in the crazy place I call home. 
     Today is Earth Day and I can't let that slip by without some education tucked in amongst the fun!  We are going to go to Assateague and stop at the new Visitor's Center to look at the displays and enjoy the Touch Pool where we can pick up crabs and other sea life and get some "upcloseandpersonal" time.  We'll walk along the shore and I'll remind him of our aquarium visit the other day when we stopped at the Atlantic Coastal Shore tank and saw what life looks like under the water where we will be standing today.  I think we will walk along some trails and through the trees to see if we can scout out some wildlife and hopefully we'll be lucky enough to see some of the wild horses that never cease to amaze us.  Of course we will walk up onto the beach, searching for shells and wishing the water wasn't too cold to dip our toes in and I hope we will come across some sea life that we can talk about and possibly take home to add to our ever growing collection of (junk)...treasure :-)
Afterward, we are looking at fun only when we head to the boardwalk for games and Thrasher's French Fries, but Earth Day will not be a total dud.  After all, what better place to celebrate the Earth than here at the beach, with such beautiful sights all around us!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Making new friends

When Brian David was first homeschooling (we began at age 8), we didn't know anyone.  We got involved, started our own group and made new friends.  At one point, our AAHE homeschool group had a core of about 8 or 9 boys, all his age, and they and their moms became a crucial part of our homeschooling adventure.  Over the years, some of the boys went back to public school and some moved away.  We lost touch and, in our last few years, had many acquaintances, but we lacked that tight knit feeling you get when you can expect the same friends again and again.  When Dakota was born I didn't know anyone with young children.  All my friends had older children and I felt out of place being an older mom in a sea of perky young moms lol.  Brian David went off to high school and Dakota and I joined a co-op and began our own homeschooling adventure.  Over the past two years we have made many friends and acquaintances, but still not that core group I was looking for...until now.  I am finding, over the last few months, that I am starting to see the same moms over and over at my events.  I look for them when I arrive and I am always pleased to see them.  It's a group of moms with kids Dakota's age.  Some of them have younger siblings and a few have a child a bit older, but for the most part we are focused on our 1st and 2nd graders.  Today we had an Easter egg hunt at Lake Waterford in Pasadena.  I had many new moms with toddlers that arrived, but they didn't really have much in common with me, mom to a "big kid".   I also had several of the moms that I consider to be in my new circle...ever widening as I meet more women and children who fit in our niche.  There was Lavender and Kelly, tried and true.  Mindie and Katie, wonderful women with wonderful children.  Erin and Debi, "old" friends, but valued nonetheless!  And I met another mom today that I am betting will fit right in...welcome Amanda!  Dakota was thrilled to have buddies he knew to run with.  It's nice to be able to say "you'll see Elijah and Nate and Megan and Ethan there".  So we begin again.  There are more that couldn't attend today, but that's what is so nice about the circle growing so large...the odds are good that at least some of our friends will be everywhere we go!
  Our homeschooling journey feels so old, but is really so new.  I hope that these new friends, with me as my son finishes kindergarten and begins first grade, will travel the ups and downs of parenthood and education with me.  I hope that we can laugh together and cry together.  Applaud our children as they grow.  Capture all of the little things that will mean so much somewhere down the road looking back.  Soo I'd like to say thank you to all of you who make my life so fulfilled.  You know who you are! And I am so grateful that you have joined my circle of friends.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Learning comes in many forms

My first son attended elementary school through the second grade before I began homeschooling and he was pretty regimented in his expectations of when we were supposed to do school.  He is a creature of habit and feels secure with routine and he liked his homeschool day to begin at 9am, continue until lunch break from 12 to 1 and then we were finished at 3.  He played alot of sports, which kept our evenings busy and we traveled and had lots of fun on the weekends.  On our unconventional school days, walking through the park catching bugs or letterboxing at the state park, he would always comment on how great it was to be a homeschooler and get to do these things during the day, but come 3:00, he never really considered anything to be "school". 
Son #2 has never attended public school.  He thinks that "school" is either the time spent at the table working on writing and math etc, about 3 hours 3 days a week or the hours we spend at co-op on Thursday mornings.  He doesn't consider any of the other things we do to be "school".  They are play, and at six years old, I can see his point.  I see things differently this time around too.  I do not feel confined by the hours of the school day.  I don't kill myself to start at 9am every morning, but on our days at home I try to get him at the table for two hours in the morning, usually from 10-12, because he works best in the morning and enjoys having the afternoons to himself.  I, however, see our day as a big picture, finding that we do alot of "school" throughout the day, much like unschoolers do, I suppose.  We have great science discussions in the car.  My son spends hours on his own creating new games, drawing, designing new "inventions" and doing crafts. He likes to play the math game or the spelling game while we travel.  I give him a word or problem and he answers and then he makes one up for me.  We spend many nights as a family at the state park or the park down the street from my house. We talk about everything we see.  We find wildlife and observe them.  We talk about the moon, the trees, the seasons, the animal habits and homes. 
Last night we had another of our "famous' family game nights.  For three hours we played Apples to Apples, a great game that has you choosing one of your cards that you think mostly closely fits the description of the judges card.  You have to be creative because you only have 7 cards and many times the obvious definition of the judges card has nothing to do with what's in your hand.  You also have to know the meaning of all the words and phrases on the cards.  You really couldn't ask for a better vocabulary and critical thinking activity.  Dakota's played this game about 5 times now and I have seen a huge improvement.  Last night he was right on, needing little help and doing as well as every adult at the table.  We certainly didn't call it "school", but he was certainly learning as much, if not more than any language arts lesson I could throw his way.  So we live and we learn, as the saying goes.  Don't pigeonhole yourself into only looking at school as those few hours between 9 and 3.  Open yourself up to the things you most likely do with your child everyday and see the education in your life.  You'll be surprised at how often you are sharing your knowledge with your child and you'll be doubly surprised when you realize how much of his knowledge he is sharing with you!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Beauty of It All

My daughter sent me some pictures of herself today.  She turned 26 years old this past week and she is 33.5 weeks pregnant with her first child.  I cannot pull myself away from the pictures she sent.  She is so blissfully happy and at peace.  I know in my heart how much my child has wanted to have a baby all her own, but the look on her face really does say it all.  I cannot think of anything more beautiful than my daughter, pregnant with my granddaughter. 

Beautiful Day!

After so many days of gray skies and rain, today's beautiful sunshine and blue skies were a welcome change.  We got to school in plenty of time and Dakota and I set up the room for our class.  I had twelve out of the fourteen there today and four of them still had reports to do on their Amazon animals, while the rest had Amazon Gazette "make up your own animal" mini reports.  We breezed through them rather quickly and then sat together on the carpet while I taught them how to sing The Rainforest Grew All Around song that went with my book.  After the first time I gave them all index cards with their "part" and when we sang through again and their part was mentioned, they had to stand up and put their card over their head.  Then everyone standing turned round and round for the verse.  This was a big hit and the kids had alot of fun with it.  Afterwards, we worked together on an Acrostic poem, with just about everyone participating well and we came up with a great piece of work.   I just couldn't keep them inside any longer, so out we went and over to the "playground" where the kids got 20 minutes of running and kicking soccer balls and jumping rope.  Most of these kids have been together going on three full years now and even though they only meet once a week, they definitely behave like your typical class.  There are the leaders and the followers.  The joiners and the loaners.  But the relationships are easy by now.  They know each other's personalities and which ones mesh with their own.  The girls definitely stick with the girls now and the boys with the boys.  My oldest student is 8 1/2 and my youngest still just 5, but together they are my class and I love them passionately!  Many of them will also be in my class next year, but some of them I will lose, and I'm going to miss them so much!!
     While Dakota went on to his Magic School Bus class, I took my little ones upstairs to read an easter story and do some marble painting.  Then it was outside for them too.  It's just waaaaay too nice to stay inside!  Got a nice email surprise when I got home too.  My daughter, 33.5 weeks pregnant with my first granddaughter, took some beautiful pictures of herself and posted them for me.  It is still so hard to comprehend the changes life is putting before me, but I am really excited for all of us and I am enjoying the anticipation of a whole new little life joining our family very soon.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Some days it's little more than cheating...

I had high hopes for today, but unfortunately, some days it's just not in the cards to have a good homeschooling day.  I had to work early so I allowed Dakota some time on the computer to play a new hidden object game...about the Amazon.   Okay, that's somewhat on topic, but I'll just add it as computer time.  Then, as I finished my work, my boss called and asked me to research going from our current microcassette system to a new digital one.  This would be very beneficial to me, not having to drive in to the Lutherville office every week, so I had Dakota sit down and watch Magic School Bus, All Dried Up about the desert for science.  I planned on doing several things after that, but the research for work wasn't going at all well and I was on hold on the phone for an IT company.  I drug out two "children of the world" pictures from his Around the World binder that he had not colored and had him do those.  Still not finished the research!  Now Dad was home for lunch so we took a "break".  Stuck Dakota in the recliner in the livingroom and we watched Up, which visits South America, while I was on hold and on my laptop. Finally got everything in motion for work and went to start school and it was time to stop and pick up my other son.  Sigh.  I was definitely not anyone's idea of a good homeschooling mommy today.  This is not how I recommend you spend your day BUT, some days are like that.  I booked a little time in the record book, and maybe the MSB was legitimate, but I still felt like I was cheating and I'll be glad when tomorrow comes so I can make amends.  (Oh, and after all that...the boss cancelled the change to digital!)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday, Monday

Today we focused mainly on Science and Social Studies.  Dakota was sick on Thursday and didn't finish his classwork so he finished that this morning, doing his word search, Amazon Gazette and passport.  We talked about South America and rain forests some and then moved on to science, reading out of our text on how plants and animals help one another and doing the corresponding workbook pages.  Leaving rainforests, we moved on to our next habitat, quickly covering deserts and watching an Eyewitness DVD that wasn't half as good as the last one we watched.  Then Dakota went onto the computer and did some online coloring of desert animals.  We read a factual sheet on deserts and found where they are located across the globe, as well.  Since it was completely gorgeous outside, we took our math out to the deck and battled a good breeze to do some measuring.  His mind was elsewhere, however, so we decided to break for lunch.  Afterward, we finished our Magic Treehouse book, Afternoon on the Amazon and Dakota read Hop on Pop to me.  We chose a Vocabulary Tales book, a fantastic Scholastic find, to squeeze in a little language arts and then called it a day. PE tonight was football.  We didn't get to art or music today. 
      Over this past weekend we also got in a little schooling when Dakota chose to invent his own game, called Crispy, complete with rules and jersey illustrations.  He also attended Sunday School and learned about the 4 kings and did some marble painting.  He had a football game and he also played tag and baseball outside with his friends.  Those things count and I'm sure to write them down!  Tomorrow we are home all day so I'm looking forward to another productive day. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Birth of My First Born

Twenty six years ago today, after three days of induced labor and what the military doctors in Wurzburg, Germany told me was 43 weeks of pregancy, I gave birth via c-section to a 6lb 14oz baby girl and my life would never be the same again.  I was nineteen, barely more than a child myself, but that little girl gave my life purpose!  We were buddies, Kris and I.  We were in Germany for three months together and then, after a short visit home, we spent the next year in Colorado.  I remember taking this tiny little baby to restaurants, museums and zoos, talking away to her like she could understand what I said.  I would hold up clothes for her to pick out her favorites.  We spent all of our time together, watching the flowers grow and the sun rise and set.  She was my world.  She was a good baby, sleeping well, barely crying and walking by the time she was nine months old.  For her first birthday I blew up balloons and spelled her name with them across our livingroom wall!  Life was simple then, with ample time to do the things I wanted and to soak up her every move.  After her first birthday we moved back to Maryland and she charmed our family, especially her PopPop.  I think I got ousted as her favorite when he came into the picture on a daily basis.  She was his Dink and he was her hero.  I remember her toddler years well.  She had a pixie hair cut and her hair was a gleaming honey blond.  She was sassy and smart, singing for a crowd and talking up a blue streak.  She would sit at the organ with her pop and sing Old Dog Trey.  Later, when she was almost three, her sister would come along and Keri would idolize her sister, imitating her every move.  My girls were beautiful and I was truly blessed.
 Very soon afterward, after years of issues, my marriage would disintegrate and the girls and I, after living for awhile with PopPop, ventured out on our own.  Fortunately for us, our knight in shining armor rode into our life just a few months later and it wouldn't take long before my sweet baby girls and I had formed a new family with a new daddy and off we went together into the sunset.  Life got busier after that.  My girls were a matched set, doing everything together and I even dressed them alike.  We moved into another house and then a baby brother joined the crew.  My first baby was eight by then, and smarter then you can imagine.  She was independent and strong and she ruled over her siblings with a loving, but iron fist.  Moving once again, we began life in the house we still call home, but tragedy struck when her beloved PopPop passed away suddenly.  Her little world was rocked and I regret that I didn't have the strength to make decisions properly for her during that time of intense grief.  It would take her some time to recover and then, in a blink of an eye, she was a preteen.  I suppose she was easy in those years, compared to some, but I remember a little girl trying to be a big girl, talking endlessly on the phone and trying to make her way in a world that didn't always include me.  She was independent and strong, relying on no one but herself, traits she still is proud of today.  She and her sister didn't get along anymore, but she and her baby brother....well, that was another story.  She was his Sissy and he was her baby and she gave him everything, including a lollipop out of her mouth if he asked!  Her teenage years were full of sass and smart mouth, door slams and eye rolls, but all in all, she was a good girl.  She was an honors student, but refused to do the work, doing just what was required to stay in the class, but the teachers loved her because she was engaging and kind.  Sixteen came and went and she got her license and by eighteen she had found her first real love, her identity and she once again let me in, chatting at the kitchen table about life.  She graduated from high school, didn't want to go to college, and went to work instead...sometimes.  This was a rocky period for her, but she and I were close and we made it through. During this period we all got a surprise when another baby brother was born!  Kris brought out all her pent up mothering urges and helped me so much with our bonus baby.  Now she had another brother to dote on, who called her Sissy, and those boys couldn't have asked for more in a sister. She was, is, their second mother and she would do anything for them.  They love her passionately, as she does them. 

Relationships came and went, as did first apartments, jobs and vehicles.  Young adulthood was full of ups and downs, but she was my best friend again. She was a preK teacher at a daycare and she and I would lesson plan together, watch movies and enjoy her brothers.  My favorite times were early in the mornings and just after work.  She would be there, coffee in hand, and we would sit at the table and chat about life.  My daughter had become a woman right before my very eyes. 
   At twenty two she met the man she would eventually marry.  He was in the military and gone most of the time for several years, but when he came home from overseas my little girl became a wife.  Time went quickly after that and she broke my heart when she gave me the news that they were going to start their married life out of state.  How I cried!!!  My first baby girl, my best friend was leaving and she took a part of my heart with her.  She came home often to visit, but it just wasn't the same.  How I treasured the days she was here, but the leaving...that tore my heart in two.   This past September she came home for a visit.  Did I mention I love her visits!  She sits on the counter and talks to me while I cook, just like she did when she was younger.  We watch movies and lesson plan and shop.  This particular visit brought big news!  My baby was having a baby!!! 
And so here we are today.  She has visited often through the past several months and we have bought baby clothes, wandered the aisles of Babies R Us for hours, talked about names and had a baby shower.  We have folded tiny clothes, dreamed big dreams and made big plans.  "Our" baby is due in a few weeks.  My baby is still in North Carolina and I am ready to drop everything, scoop up her father and brothers and make the mad dash to see this baby born.  Those six hours in the car are going to be the longest six hours of my life!!  I pray that we make it in time because my baby girl, the light of my life, my best friend, my beautiful twenty six year old daughter, will be giving me the best gift I could ever ask for.  I am getting a granddaughter!  It's like turning back the clock.  Very shortly I will be able to start again, with a sweet little baby girl to rock and love and treasure.  I hope she looks just like her mommy!  What a wonderful thing, to be able to have my daughter as an adult and still get to go back in time to see "her" as a little girl again.  I feel like it is the ultimate gift.  In a few months time my daughter and her husband, who left here as a couple, will be moving back as a family.  By September I will have my little granddaughter every weekday while her mommy works, and I will remember how fast the time flew by and I will treasure each and every minute I get to spend with my granddaughter.  But best of all, I will have my daughter home, living nearby, making a life with her new family, but close enough to hug.  My family will be complete again and my heart won't have to break over and over every time she says she is going home. 
Happy Birthday, Princess.  I love you more than you can possibly know!  I can't bake you a cake today or give you a hug or kiss your soft cheek.  I can't call everyone in the family and invite them to a family dinner at Red Lobster in your honor.  But I can think of you, every minute, and pray that you are safe and happy and well.  I love you, Kris.  Thank you for making me a Mom.  You are the best gift I could have ever asked for.  I can't wait to share your life with you as you start your journey into motherhood.  I'm here.  Just ask.  I do anything I can for you and your daughter. Until I see you again...

Friday, April 8, 2011

Curriculum fairs

Have you ever visited a curriculum fair?  Did you like it?  I wrote an article today for my new freelance position as the Baltimore Homeschool Examiner at Examiner.com about the MACHE curriculum fair next week at the Frederick Fairgrounds and wondered what goes on there.  I've been homeschooling for eleven years and have never been to one.  For the most part I am an ecclectic educator, writing my own curriculum using materials from the internet, the library and the thrift store, but I also use texts from Houghton Mifflen, Harcourt and A Beka.  Saxon Math is a staple, as well.  My main issue with curriculum fairs is that I'm afraid I will be overwhelmed with the choices available.  I would most certainly want everything I see!  On the other hand, Dakota is so young, only in kindergarten, and if there are awesome resources available, I would love to know about them.  Last year I discovered Moving Beyond the Page and begged my husband to let me buy it.  He gave in and, while I think it is an awesome curriculum and incredibly well put together, I found that I do things myself naturally that are exactly what they are doing in their lesson plans.  Do I want to look at the material from 75+ vendors and decide that I MUST have something new when I'm completely happy with what I'm already doing? 

Next week I will think about going to the fair.  It's reasonably priced, besides the gas it will take to get there, not too far away (45 minutes), I could use my experience to write an article and it would be a night out if I take my friend  However, my guess is that I will not attend, just because I don't want that many choices.  I don't like temptation and I know myself too well to think I would be able to look and not buy.  I think I'll just take $10 to the thrift store and go through the books there.  I'll be happy with my loot and I won't have any regrets later about what might have been.

Dealing with a sick child

We are fortunate that our family seems to be quite healthy.  We get your usual winter colds and spring allergies, but for the most part, we are a hardy crew.  Yesterday my little son was stricken by the wicked old stomach bug.  We were at co-op when he got sick and he was sick again as soon as we got home.  He spent the day in bed, miserable and pathetic, begging to drink his water, but unable to even keep ice chips down.  He went on and on about the injustice of it all.  "It's not fair!!  I'm thirsty!!  I don't want to lay in bed!!"  I tried to get him to relax and just watch some tv and nap, but he was having none of it.  Finally, around 7:30, he fell asleep and actually had a good night.  By this morning he thought he was feeling fine and my words of wisdom to rest and don't overdo it fell on deaf ears.  By lunch time he was exhausted and ended up taking a two hour nap.  I found that to be a wonderful treat!  When he woke up he was still feeling weak and tired and it hurt my heart to see him laying there looking red cheeked and glassy eyed, with no energy to play. 
     It's 4:15 now and I just went in to check on him.  His color was good and he smiled, that devilish little boy kind of grin, and I realized my nursemaid duties are probably coming to an end.  I am actually looking forward to him making a little noise and causing a bit of havoc tonight.  He may drive me bonkers on a regular basis, but I'd give anything not to see him sick.  Thank heaven for little boys!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Take Advantage of Great Deals!

Everyone can use a good deal now and then and in these days of tough economic times, we can use as many of them as we can get.  As a homeschooler who tries to make every cent count, I enjoy finding websites that help me make the most of my money. We are a busy family and we like to do fun things on the weekend together.  Thanks to sites like Groupon.com, Eversave, Certifikid and Living Social, you can get tickets, memberships and admissions at deeply discounted rates!  You can visit the website, sign up for email or Facebook notification and you will receive daily deals in your area from local businesses and venues.  Recently in the Baltimore area there were half price fairs to Pirate Adventures at the Inner Harbor, deeply discounted rates for go cart riding in White Marsh and two movie tickets and two small popcorns for $12 at the Regal Cinemas.  Some deals are only available for purchase for 24 hours and some are good for several days.  You have several months to use them and the date is always listed.  During the holidays I was able to get round trip bus fare to New York for $25, good to use until May 2011.  This allows our family of four to go to New York for the day for only $100!  Also, buying them in December allowed us to have extra time to save up for spending money and we combined our fun family outing with the date our oldest son turns 18 and we got a Christmas gift and a birthday treat all in one!  You don't have to give up the fun times when money gets tight.  You just have to find inventive ways to make it work for your family!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Easy Does It

Today was one of those days when life was getting to me, but once I shut those doors to the outside world and settled in with my little man, all was well with my world.  We went to the library first and then brought our books home and I let Dakota take his and look them over for 30 minutes.  After that we did his math lesson, working on subtracting half, and then read in our science text about animal adaptation and did the corresponding worksheets.  Dakota read a Diego Rainforest Race book to me and I read 5 chapters of our new Magic Treehouse Book, Afternoon on the Amazon.  Dakota sits well for chapter books, but he still doesn't love them.  Give him picture books any day!  Sometimes I worry because I feel like he should be reading them or at least enjoying them more than he does, but I know that will come eventually.  I like how the MTH book allows us to do our reading while still tying into the rainforest theme that we've been doing for a few weeks now for social studies.  We stayed snuggled on the sofa and read a silly book about manners and Dakota had alot to say about the correct way to act and the polite way to go about things.  It was nice to know that he DOES know about manners, even if he doesn't always practice what he preaches!  We did a SchoolExpress packet on Manners afterward and then Dakota went into his room to watch Ferngully, the Last Rainforest.  It's a cartoon and there is a good message being sent out, but it's a bit intense and at the end my little son said ENOUGH! and turned it off.  Okay.  I can live with that.  No art or music today, but arena football practice for 90 minutes tonight took care of our PE for the day.  Tomorrow is co-op and it is guaranteed NOT to be so peaceful!
     So tomorrow we will wrap up our rainforest unit and I'm just a little sad.  I had no plans to do rainforests for two weeks, but it was so much fun and Dakota enjoyed it so much that it just naturally went on and on.  Our reading, our science and our social studies have all revolved around the topic and I feel very organized and focused when it all comes together like that. 
   

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

It's Great To Be A Homeschooler

Today we had a special treat that we surely would have missed if we had been at work or at school.  My husband isn't busy at work and he took a ride down to the park next to our home.  He called and told me to bring Dakota down to watch a momma fox, so Koda and I jumped in the car and went down to see what was going on.  We turned off the car and watched in fascination as a momma fox ran across the road in front of us, stopping to check us out, then ran into the trees, across the field and up onto a raised mound of dirt, into a rabbit hole and came back out carrying a baby rabbit.  Back across the field she went, through the trees, across the road and into the woods on the other side.  My husband saw her do this twice before we joined him and we saw her go through the whole cycle twice, once with a baby rabbit and the final time coming up empty.  It was sad for the baby rabbits, yes, but we explained the circle of life to Dakota and how this momma was working hard to make sure her babies were fed.  It was a priceless science lesson for the day! 
     We spent most of our time today delving into the Amazon rain forest.  We watched an Eyewitness video entitled Jungles, read books about Brazil, Red-eyed Tree Frogs, an amazon folk tale called Jabuti, the Tortoise by Gerald McDermott, and a fun book about Code Blue with games in it.  We did a SchoolExpress unit (a free unit every week!  sign up at http://www.schoolexpress.com/) on Rainforests that included reading and cloze activities, illustrating and word games.  I love those packets because they are so all encompassing.  When we finished that Dakota decided he wanted to do his poster of an amazon rain forest animal that is his homework this week from his Around the World class.  He chose the jaguar and I printed off a picture to color and some information to add to the poster.  We used pre-cut letters to spell Jaguar, he colored the picture and added a rainforest background and we put the information all around.  On the other side we made the Liana vines that I had posted on this blog last week.  It looks terrific and he's so proud!  I'm proud that we finished two days early and won't be rushing to get it done Thursday morning!  Other than that we did journaling and handwriting and that's about it.  Tomorrow we will do math, manners and a little science text before making our rainforest cookies and watching Ferngully, The Last Rainforest.  Sounds like a nice Wednesday coming our way!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Homeschooling on a Baseball Sort of Day

It's Opening Day here in Baltimore and there is a definite buzz in the air here at our house.  Both the Brians, Jr and Sr, took the day off of school and work to go to the game and Dakota and I will be watching on TV.  I let Dakota enjoy the morning hanging out with his brother and going to the dump, a very coveted trip!, with his dad.  We didn't get started til after lunch and Dakota wasn't really feeling ready to school since no one else was working, so I tickled his fancy with a few baseball books I had gotten out of library last week on baseball, including Dad, Me and Jackie Robinson.  This was a very good book told from the perspective of a young boy in 1947 who's deaf father knew nothing about baseball, but became a huge Jackie Robinson fan and, after a visit to a Brooklyn Dodgers game, asked his baseball loving son to teach him the game.  This gave us a chance to talk about baseball, but also about segregation and revisit our lesson on Rosa Parks and how the Negro people were segregated in our country not all that long ago.  This must have gotten his interest because he wrote about it in his journal today and he also told his dad how he learned about Jackie Robinson and retold the book to him.  Afterward we did our math and a spring Scholastic news before going in to watch a video on Good Manners that I thought would take a good half hour.  Should have watched it first because honestly, it didn't take five minutes!!  Okay, so much for mopping the floor while he watched that video!  Last on our list today was music and science, combined this time in the song The Rainforest Grew All Around from the book of the same name.  We did this echo song, talked about a fun way to incorporate it into our co-op class on Thursday and then went back and read the information in the book about the various rainforest animals and did the activities in the back on animal adaptation.  There was also a recipe for Rainforest Cupcakes, using ingredients we get from the rainforest and Dakota and I decided that it would be the perfect thing to do for tomorrow when we don't have anywhere to go and it's supposed to be rainy and gray yet again.  Now we have the O's game on but we've decided that our deck is calling to us to clean it and ready it for spring so we are heading out to clean and scrub and put our swing and deck furniture together.  Maybe by next weekend we'll get another warm day (surely haven't been many of them so far!) and we'll be able to take our homeschooling out to the deck and listen to the birds and feel the breeze!  Sounds like heaven. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

I Have To Say My Piece

Anyone who knows my family can tell you that youth sports has been a huge part of our lives for the past fifteen years or more. And before anyone jumps on my case, my children are highly competitive, active kids who ask to play these sports. It's either in the blood we all share or the air we breathe in our home.  Maybe both.  The girls cheered, we coached them in softball and basketball, they played high school sports.  My older son was a year round talented athlete.  He started at four years old and played baseball, basketball and football, doing select and metro baseball and traveling around the country, winning championships and having a blast. My husband was the one who coached the girls in softball and started their basketball league, which is also where my oldest boy started playing.  Brian was also Brian David's coach for his entire baseball career until high school and his football coach for all but one year. We started and finished our son's youth football at the same organization. My husband was born to coach.  He does it right...the kids learn fundamental skills, teamwork, sportsmanship and self discipline.  They love him and he loves them.  They respect him and he respects them.  He is a tough coach, demanding that the kids give everything they have, but he knows that some kids have more talent and some less and their "all" will not be the same, but if they were willing to put 100% out there, he was willing to praise them and keep them involved in the game. He would raise his voice occasionally, but not often.  He coached them well and then let them play the game, offering guidance and support. He let them know when he was unhappy with them, but most of the time, he let them know how proud he was of their efforts and accomplishments.  Those boys would do anything for him and he would do anything for them.  He must have done something right because he won several championships along the way and the "kids" still call him and visit and speak highly of him to those they meet and they are now young men, graduating high school.  I'm proud of who my husband is and I know that the kids on his teams are lucky to have him.
     That brings us to Dakota.  Dakota was our bonus baby.  He was my husband's gift to me when he decided to pursue the time consuming path of high school coaching and asked me "what do you want to do with your life now that the kids are growing up?"  I knew when we had him that my husband was not going to be "running the table" as they say, coaching Dakota from the ground up.  I knew there wasn't enough time or energy left for that.  I stepped in for his first year of baseball and basketball and coached and, when he started tackle football at 3 years old in a new organization  close to my husband's school that he coaches for, I thought Dakota's coach was fabulous.  However, my son was three and there wasn't too much more to be learned for him than being a part of a team and standing in the right spots.  We were pleased with the outcome overall.  The next year, however, his coach was a mess.  He didn't know football.  He didn't work well with the kids and he was going through a personal crisis at home that he brought onto the field. We cut Dakota's season short after the coach taught the boys how to "play dirty" against another team.  Okay.  So we tried soccer the next year and had a great coach.  Dakota was no superstar, but he really enjoyed the high energy on the soccer field.  I loved our coach and it was fun, although no one really bothered to teach the kids the skills to better themselves.  Basketball for his first year was fun and I coached.  No issues there.  Then came football season again.  This time my husband knew the coach and said good things about him.  He had "run the table" with his oldest boy and was returning to youth to coach his youngest.  My husband vowed to help, but in the long run, had little time to give due to his work and coaching schedule at the high school level.  Well, long story short, the coach did know football, but wasn't interested in teaching the skills to the kids.  He just wanted to work with the bigger, stronger, faster kids and had little interest in the "dead wood" that were the 19 other young boys on his team.  These boys were 5, 6 and 7 years old!  After several weeks of this I decided to cut my losses and Dakota and I enjoyed a wonderful fall at home, watching my husband coach and older son play on Archbishop Spalding's high school team.  So here we are presently, in the spring.  My husband has become extremely close to Dakota.  They are best buddies and my husband's schedule has been slow due to the off season and he is very interested in coaching Dakota.  Time, however, will not always be available.  So he and I together and coaching baseball and we signed Dakota up with another organization for football this spring, arena football, in hopes that this well accomplished organization and it's seasoned coaches would have what we were looking for in a team and in the coaches that are working with these 6 and 7 year old boys.  I took Dakota to the first 2 practices.  They were long and it was cold and Dakota was not looking like he knew what he was doing nor that he was enjoying himself.  We asked him if he would like to quit.  Nope.  He said he was loving it.  My very aggressive, gregarious boy, however, was a pansy on the football field and I feared he would get hurt, so my husband agreed to take the reigns, work with our son on his skills and take him to his practices twice a week.  From what I was hearing, things were good.  Our son was improving and I know he always came home full of stories and smiles, telling me about his night.  My husband approved of the coaches who were gung ho, but seemed to genuinely like the boys.  Could this be it?  Had we found a football home?  Today was our first arena football game.  I was waiting for the good experience that was going to give this football loving family something to smile about.  We got there an hour early and the coaches were excited and so were the boys.  Our team, for the most part, is made up of bigger boys, all getting ready to turn eight very soon.  They are experienced, having won their age bracket championship the year before in fall football.  Dakota is small and inexperienced and I knew he wouldn't get alot of playing time.  I was okay with that.  The other team was tiny and had only had one practice.  Not looking good for them.  So 9am comes and the game starts.  Our starting offense tears up the other team's defense over and over again.  We score and score some more.  The other team is taking a bruising and some of the kids are getting really banged up.  Dakota gets in for one, maybe two plays.  Some kids don't get in at all, as the starters are playing both sides of the ball skillfully.  Then it's halftime.  My husband and I are sure that the coaches are going to put in the younger, smaller kids now.  It's a blow out.  But no.  The coach is all but frothing at the mouth because his big, strong son is continually destroying the other team.  The big boys on our squad pummel and pummel the other team.  The score is 8 scores to 2 scores and still, our coach is smiling a mile wide and letting these kids smash into the other team over and over.  Dakota got in for one or two more plays.  Some kids still hadn't step foot onto the field.  The coach was not at all concerned.  He was winning!!!!  Big!!!  Look at my huge beast of a son beating up on that little center!!!  There were some parents of the bigger kids yelling and encouraging their sons to beat up on this team more.  More!  More!!  It was awful.  I was embarrassed for us.  Where was the teamwork and the sportsmanship?  Where was the experience the younger, smaller kids could have gained getting some playing time in a blow out game?  Sigh.  I don't think we have found our football home.  I don't think I want to be part of this "all for us and all for us" mentality.  I wish my husband had the time to do it all over again for Dakota.  He spoiled us.  He is an excellent coach and an good man.  He is a wonderful role model for my own son, as well as the other boys he coaches.  I respect, however, that he is a busy man, devoted to his high school job, and I know that he is giving Dakota everything he can and will continue to do so as the sports years progress.  I just wish we could clone him, because there just aren't too many men like him in the world of youth sports. 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy

There sure hasn't been much home to our homeschooling lately!  We had the circus on Friday and then this morning Dakota had baseball pictures at 9, we went to breakfast at Dennys together and then Daddy took him to football practice at noon.  He did come home for a bath and then MomMom picked him up for a "date" with her and Auntie Diane to see the new movie Hop.  Now he's finally HOME and in bed, getting ready for his first arena football game tomorrow morning.  We have to be there at....8am...on a Sunday morning.  Home schooling really needs a different name.  We may school together as a family, but we surely don't do it all from home!!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen...Step Right Up!

Today Dakota and I went to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.  We went with alot of other homeschool friends and my friend Leigh and her granddaughter.  The kids were excited, the arena was packed and the preshow was hyping everyone up.  It started right on time and right away you could tell that the circus had joined the 21st century.  There were lots of screens, lasers and glitzy sets.  The costumes were modern and the songs very hiphop and cool.  Dakota was sucked right in, waving and smiling.  We had excellent seats, 3 rows off the floor, and each act brought a bigger smile and more shine to his eyes.  I really wasn't looking forward to the day, but we ended up having alot of fun and, while I enjoyed the show, I enjoyed watching Dakota more.  Now we are home and he is in his room building a circus with his legos and using his little people and animals to make his own acts.  Gotta love his ingenuity!  Next year we will start all over again with the next generation, taking baby Natalie to her first circus, but for this year, my own little boy was all I needed to make my experience a great one.